Ghosts of the Past

It is strange how the ghosts of past keep coming back to haunt you. More so, in sports, as it deals with statistics – again, of the past…

By all means Malaysia has been a happy hunting ground for Nepali cricket – after the home ground – having won two titles at age group level cricket. The first of them came at the ACC U-15 Two Day, when Nepal won the title under Prithu Baskota’s captaincy, in 2006.

Nepal won ACC U-19 Elite Cup, in 2007, under Paras Khadka’s captaincy. Some of the members of present senior team like Anil Mandal, Amrit Bhattarai, Gyanendra Malla were a part of the team coached by Roy Dias.

At the same time, the senior team hasn’t had such happy memories of the venue, having suffered one of the biggest setbacks in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2004, in one of the most surprising results Nepal has faced, it lost to Qatar by 4 wickets in quarter-final of the ACC Trophy. It was a huge impediment for Nepali team, given its past results at the tournament. After first round exit in 1996 and ’98 – early days of Nepal’s international participation – it had reached semi-final in 2000 and been finalists in 2002 at the same tournament. Had Nepal reached the final then, it would have reached World Cricket League Division 2 qualifier, gaining in rankings and possible increment in funding provided by ICC. That would have also meant increased international exposure.

Former Coach Roy Dias hugs Captain Paras Khadka, as present Coach Pubudu Dassanayake looks on.

These were the days when World Cricket League’s structure was still being formed. This defeat led to Nepal being relegated to World Cricket League’s Division 5 – which then cricket administrators said was after intense lobbying – after showing a lot of promise during early part of this decade. Since then Nepali cricket has been a story of struggle.

That’s perhaps why the World Cricket League Division 4 this time around was not merely a tournament for Nepal. It is more than that, as Nepali team needed to beat the ghosts from the past, to start afresh and keep the promise of climbing up. To spice up the atmosphere, Malaysia’s coach was Roy Dias – the man who had been at the helm of Nepal’s coaching for close to a decade – almost an insider of Nepali cricket. Paras Khadka, who has fond memories of lifting the title there, leading Team Nepal, which had a few players that played in that fateful loss 8 years ago.

That’s why Nepal Vs Malaysia was more than a game, not only for Nepali players, but also for Roy Dias. Apart from being about forgetting 2004, it was a duel between the mentor and the protégés. It was an emotional battle as they had parted ways and were in opposing camps now. Once friends, now foes – even if only metaphorically. It’s not easy to play against what you term as your second home.

And Nepal annihilated Malaysia. The boys beat their mentor, dominating both with the bat and ball. As Dias’ present team showed the same vulnerabilities in batting seen during his Nepal years – crumbling during pressure situation – his former team showed no signs of it.

It would be difficult to say if the ghosts from the past were laid to rest or not. For only time would tell that. But the re-emergence of two of Dias’ protégés – Binod Das and Shakti Gauchan – must have given him heart. For, it is something about the mentor-protégé relationship that cannot be killed. As a mentor, you want them to do well, especially when they face you.

Psychologists will tell you that the interpersonal similarities between mentors and protégés forge strong bonds. Psychology experiments show that the mentor-protégés similarities, coaching styles, or personality types, foster strong relationships between mentors and protégés. No wonder, during his stay, Binod and Shakti were two names Dias always mentioned fondly. And for both of them, this was a sort of comeback, as they had been termed ‘average’ players in recent times.

The old warhorses may have more than proved that they’re not spent forces. And if the ghosts of the past are laid to rest by now, Malaysia could be the soil where Nepali cricket takes a turnaround again. This time, for good…

(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 8th September, 2012)

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