The Hope Called Cricket

Nepali dreams of seeing their women play against top flight cricket nations has been quashed. The opportunity for this team being a participant at the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 2014 – scheduled to be held in Bangladesh – has now been thrown out of the window. Because it did not finish as the top team in ACC Women´s Championship in Thailand, Nepali women’s team would not be travelling to Ireland this year, to play in the world cup qualifiers.

It’s disappointing for cricket fans. It is difficult to take heart from a match where your team scores all of 38 runs, in 25-over-a-side match, despite being one of the title contenders. It’s not easy to digest that the highest scorer from your team manages 7 runs off 19 balls (Sita Magar) and highest score is contributed by Ms. Extra.

But, cricket is a game of irony as much as it is about skills, techniques and scores. Just when Nepali girls were being thrashed by the home team, Thailand – earlier in the week – to collapse to a lowest ever total, there was new development back home, from where you could take a lot of heart from.

It was the same day, when National Cricket Academy began a program to find young cricket talents. Yes, we are talking about the U-12 Youth Program started by the NCA; just couple of weeks after it was formally inaugurated. And if you were in the Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground (the location of NCA) – or watched it in television – you’d have been glad to see the scene.

It was an amazing scene: scores of tender, pre-teen, anticipating cherubic faces at the ground that seems to be getting older by the day (considering the ground and pitch condition). It was as if the ground itself got younger by a few years due to the excitement that was abuzz in and around it.

Dozens of children (332 to be precise), from 16 schools of the valley (many still in their school uniforms), from 4 to 5 feet in height, trying to run around, trying to take catches, and intently listening to whatever their coaches at the time were explaining (also crowding around the person whoever was giving soundbites to television cameras), was a sight I’ve not seen at a sports arena in the country for a long time. It was a scene that would make you feel good, as long as you want cricket to flourish in this part of the world.

Hope and Joy: Glimpses from U-12 Camp, organized by National Cricket Academy.
Hope and Joy: Glimpses from U-12 Camp, organized by National Cricket Academy at Kirtipur Cricket Ground (Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground)

The presence of cricketers like Binod Das, Shakti Gauchan, Basanta Regmi, Gyanendra Malla, Sanjam Regmi, Raju Basnet, Dipendra Chaudhary and Paresh Lohani at the camp was a good sign, showing that they were not content just to revel in their own success, but were ready to transfer their knowledge to the aspirants. To those who’ve only known them remotely, and for whom they’re the stars.

This is a start that also the former cricketers would be keenly watching, and perhaps be proud of. In their time, they hardly had opportunity to transfer their skills and knowledge to the rookies – something that did not let Nepali cricketers (especially the younger lot) learn the cricket tradition and history that we have. Meet the past cricketers to learn of their experience and you’d know how much they’d have liked to tell present cricketers of their glory days, which would have eventually built a strong cricket culture. A strong culture and tradition never harms development, be it in any field.

Nepal head coach Pubudu Dassanayake should be hailed for making the plan of NCA, and Cricket Association of Nepal should be praised for taking his idea seriously. However, it is just a start. It should be reminded here that the training camps such as this can only go so far. It cannot give the results we want in absence of a school cricket structure. We have had it in past, and only through that structure can we get we reap the benefit out of camps like these.

Often it is said that ‘Children are our future’. Yours truly would like to differ here. Children are our present. It is the present when we make investment, so that it gives us return in future. The time is now, the present, where we decide what we want to be, in future. And for present, there is hope.

(PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 2nd February, 2013)

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