New Year is a time for euphoria. The excitement of new beginnings makes it possible to forget past failings. It is a time to rejoice, as renewed energy makes it possible to scale heights unattained earlier.
And the year 2013, in all likelihood, could be the best year for Nepali sports, especially cricket. For this year gives us an opportunity to be on the road to qualify for unprecedented 4 World Cups. Never before have we been on the threshold of qualifying this many top tournaments. This year, if steps are taken right, and if our teams play well, there is a possibility that we might see our players rubbing shoulders with the top players of world cricket.
The opportunities are: Women’s World Twenty20 and Men’s World Twenty20 (Bangladesh 2014), U-19 World Cup (UAE 2014), and Cricket World Cup (Australia 2015). However, playing in them is easier said than done. But the road ahead, has to and does, start now.
The start would come through women’s team, as they begin their journey this January itself to Thailand, to play ACC Women’s Championship. The winner of the championship goes to World Cup qualifier, to be played in Ireland in August this year. The winner in Ireland qualifies for the final spot in the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2014 scheduled to be held in Bangladesh, playing along with current champions Australia plus England, New Zealand, West Indies, India, South Africa and hosts Bangladesh.
Nepali men’s cricket team will play ACC T20 cup in March at home. Apart from Afghanistan (also playing in this tourney), top two teams qualify for World T20 qualifiers. The qualifiers, contested among 16 nations, in November this year in UAE, will select 6 teams for the World T20, to be played in Bangladesh next year. Last time around when Nepal played in the qualifiers, we finished 7th, and missed the bus for World T20 in 2012 by one spot. Then, Nepal captain Paras Khadka had said, “With a little more effort in planning and hard work, we can qualify for the World T20”.
The U-19 Nepali team is scheduled to play in ACC U-19 Elite. The top team, apart from UAE, enters the U19 World Cup 2014 (Malaysia). UAE has already qualified as hosts for the World Cup. It becomes important here to remember that Nepal has played 6 U-19 World Cups in 8 attempts, as is considered almost as good as Test nations, to qualify at least. The last year’s performance could be termed an aberration as the team finished 13th out of 16 (the worst we’ve ever fared, after qualifying).
Now comes the difficult and most interesting part, the holy grail of cricket. The biggest prize: Cricket World Cup 2015. Even for that, the road starts for Nepal, right away. Nepali team is set to play in ICC World Cricket League Division 3, along Bermuda, Italy, Oman, Uganda, and USA. The top two teams progress to World Cup Qualifier in early 2014 – a 10 team event to be played in New Zealand. The qualifiers will send two teams to the World Cup.
This year is unique in Nepali cricket for several reasons. Unique because this is our first participation in Women’s world cup qualifier; first stage of World T20 qualifier is being played in Nepal itself; we’re closest to world cup than ever (being in WCL Division 3 and considered favorites there).
On paper, it looks as if Nepali teams have it easy to progress to all these world cups, to be played beyond 2013. Yes, with road clearly defined, it becomes easier to make a roadmap. Planning becomes easier if objectives are distinct. And, as far as clear goals are concerned, it doesn’t get easier than this. It is upon Cricket Association of Nepal, to prepare a roadmap as soon as possible, if it hasn’t made one already.
Nepal finished 2012 on a high, being ranked the best team by ACC, among the Non-Test Playing nations. Credit goes to Captain Paras Khadka and Coach Pubudu Dassanayake who made Nepali cricketers believe in themselves and fly high. The duo is still there. There is no reason why we cannot have a grander dream: Dream 2013!
(PS: This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 5th January, 2013)