Nepal Cricket’s Turning Point

Cricket governing body of Nepal, CAN, now boasts of a National Cricket Academy. And, whether it goes right or wrong, formation of this institution would be seen in history as turning point for Nepali Cricket, for better or for worse.

It is difficult to say who should be more excited with the formation of this academy: players or cricket aficionados. It is obvious that cricket players are the direct beneficiaries of the academy, where they get opportunity to hone their skills. But as a cricket fan, yours truly would not want to rejoice any less with the development. For a cricket fan, there is no better news than to know that there is now an opportunity for sustained growth in cricket, given the recent success of our national team. It’s a joy to see fitter, agile players taking to the field, running harder, diving and playing with élan. And NCA could help in that.

The idea of forming an academy is not novel in itself, for many countries have it already, and benefitted from it. But the fact that it has happened here, should be welcome nonetheless. The idea, pushed by current head coach Pubudu Dassanayake half a year ago, has finally taken shape. And CAN should be congratulated for that.

Nepal Cricket practices: One of the practice session for Nepali cricketers, before the National Cricket Academy was officially opened.
Nepal Cricket practices: One of the practice session for Nepali cricketers, before the National Cricket Academy was officially opened.

A lot has been written in these columns about the success of current team and what can happen in the absence of proper domestic cricket structure in the country. A lot has been said about the potential that we have, in reaching the biggest level in cricket. But all the potential may come to nothing, if the team does not perform at its top level throughout this year. This is where National Cricket Academy (NCA) comes into picture.

As a short-term pessimist and long-term optimist, I view that NCA is not a magic wand, or a silver bullet to cure all the problems Nepali cricket has. This is where I agree with the President of CAN, Tanka Aangbuhang. During the opening of NCA, he urged cricket lovers not to have high hopes from the academy. Many would term it as negative statement. However, one will have to agree with him that NCA cannot create a talent pool right away and neither can it make average cricketers great. So, in that regard, it is not likely to have immediate impact. It’s a long-term investment.

As a believer in process-has-to-be-right-to-get-right-results, I feel that this is a step taken in right direction as it fulfills the gap – to an extent – between domestic cricket and Nepal’s national team. We’ve often talked about Nepali cricketers not getting enough practice or being fit all the year round, to be able to perform at competitive level. This is a place where skills can be enhanced, and ability to perform can be measured.

And in Dassanayake – as the head of NCA – and Binod Das, who is also going to perform coaching duty along with Jagat Tamata, we could not have had a better team at the helm. Dassanayake, for being a performance coach, and Binod, for having played at the highest level for Nepal, make a good team. Together they can understand players’ skills, their psyche, and improve upon them. The plans to start special training programs with presence of physiotherapist, fitness trainer as well as batting, bowling and fielding coaches are bright, and one would hope that they happen sooner than later.

The best part of the plan seems to be the introductory programs for U-12 crickets, likely to happen soon. This is one area where CAN had not been working, to tap the talents early and give them enough of exposure so that they can develop into fit cricketers.

However, it would be a folly to start thinking that NCA can work in absence of a proper domestic cricket structure. For training at academy does not replace the experience of match practice. And cricket officials (some of whom have played cricket at some level), should be wary of that. We’ve already heard of potential sponsors of this very academy showing cold feet, due to lax attitude of CAN members in making them feel that the investment would produce results.

Nepal cricket is on the verge of change. We only hope, it is for better!

(PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 19 January, 2013)

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