The Road to World Cup

Nepal embarks on another campaign at Asian level Cricket, to play in the ACC Trophy Elite. As the players leave the country, their heads will be held high, having received previously unheard sum – for the cricketers – from the government of Nepal.

The reward is a result of Nepal’s entry into the ICC World Cricket League Division 3. And what an achievement it has been. As expected, it’s been celebrated well, by public, by various (political) organizations – trying to cash in on the increased popularity of cricket. But yours truly gets a feeling that we might have had one celebration too many. Nothing wrong with the celebration, as long as it doesn’t become an impediment for the future plans.

It’s not a surprise that in a country, which has seen few successes at international sports circuit in recent times, you tend to rejoice every small achievement that comes along the way. But the challenge always is: in a stupor of celebration, you might lose focus – of the target.

ACC Trophy Elite, where Nepal plays along with Hong Kong, UAE, Afghanistan, Oman, Saudi, Kuwait, Bhutan, Maldives and Malaysia, is an important tournament, as it decides the ranking for Asian associate members. If we play well, we might as well finish as the number one associate nation in Asia. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. For, Singapore, the team in Division 4 – where we belonged till only recently – has been relegated from ACC Trophy Elite and is playing ACC Trophy Challenge. It only takes a few days of bad cricket for you to go to bottom.

Nepal Cricket Team, during a practice match at Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground, Kathmandu. Photo: Yours Truly

That basically means that we have precious little time to lose. If you look at forthcoming tournaments that Nepal plays, you would be more certain of it. After the ACC Trophy Elite, Nepali team will play in ICC World Cricket League Division 3 in March/April 2012, and if it finishes in the top two, it will climb to Division 2. Climbing to Division 2 means that Nepal would be able to play in the World Cup qualifier in early 2014 – a 10 team event from where top two go to the Cricket World Cup 2015. Achievable, but not easy…

This means that the cricketers have no time to relax. And if you are cricket administrator, your job is doubled. By any stretch of imagination, it would be difficult to operate in these tournaments from the present pool of cricketers – which number around 20, as of now, if you’re talking of senior cricket.

Sadly, in absence of national cricket tournaments, the pool is not getting bigger. In past one year – that’s the time Nepal has had the services of Pubudu Dassanayake as Head Coach – he’s had to operate with a small pool. Hardly has he have time to spot talent outside this realm. By his own admission, his ‘ job of developing cricketers hasn’t been done satisfactorily’.

If the pool is not increased, the players – who have been putting their best foot forward so far – tend to relax, in absence of competition. Additionally, injury is a part and parcel of the game. And in case of injury, we may not have worthy replacements. Now would be the time, to put some of the plans into implementation phase. Now would be the time, to organize the National Cricket Academy (so far only seen on planning papers) and operationalize it. For, this could be a venue where fringe players could get into a regimen that a player needs to be in. Sporting excellence is often a result of proper and thorough process. For, result is a function of process. If the process is followed right, there is a better chance of proper result.

In the words of Dassanayake, ‘If we are to claim as worthy of a Division 2 or 1 team, ACC Trophy Elite is the time we need to establish our supremacy. This is where the top flight teams of Asia, like Afghanistan and UAE play’.

Yours truly would like to believe that the road to World Cup starts with this tournament in UAE. If Cricket Association of Nepal takes its step right in coming few months, the probability of seeing our boys at the biggest level would be better. As the saying goes, ‘the harder I work, the luckier I get’. For CAN, it’s time for hard work.

(PS: This write up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column at The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 29th September, 2012.)

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