As a year draws to an end, you’re often asked, “What was the best moment for you this year?”
A Nepali is asked this question twice, every year. Once when the Common Era (CE or AD) comes to an end, and another when the official Nepal Calendar (BS) comes to a close. Based on your experience, you can be termed fortunate – for being able to relive two great moments every year – or unfortunate – if you can’t recollect the moments that can be called great.
And in past year, cricket provided more moments – which could be cherished – in Nepali sports than any other. Be it the win in World Cricket League Division 4, or finishing as joint-winner of ACC Trophy Elite, or finishing as the second best team in ACC T20 Cup, cricket ruled the year. Or rather, cricketers ruled the year.
During the ACC T20 Cup, one moment caught yours truly’s eyes. It was the match between Nepal and Maldives, the first one for Nepal during the tournament. Nepal was precariously placed, with captain Paras Khadka run out for 10 runs and the scoreboard reading 111 for 3 in the 14th over. If you’ve seen Paras Khadka in past few years, you know that his wicket has a price – a hefty one at that – for he has been the best player around, for the team. His wicket has often been the reason between Nepal’s win and defeat.
In walked Sharad Vesawkar, who was once touted as Nepal’s batting hope but of late had acquired a reputation of a journeyman. In past few years, in ways more than one, Vesawkar was an epitome of Nepali cricket. A tale of unfulfilled potential… But this time around, we were to witness something special. Something we hadn’t seen for long.
Come 18th over, Maldivian off-break bowler Ahmed Faiz was given the ball. By then he had bowled two overs for 10 runs, and taken wicket of Binod Bhandari and was also involved in the run out of Paras Khadka. Obviously, his confidence was high. As Faiz bowled his fourth ball, Sharad Vesawkar shifted a bit in his crease and presented full face of his bat. The ball went big and landed out of midwicket boundary. A six… Vesawkar finished the match with 36 runs off 18 deliveries, with two sixes, and took his team to a position from where win for Nepal was mere formality.
Sport is as much about the audacity as it is about technique. Moreover, cricket – despite being a team game – is about individual struggles too. And Vesawkar was as audacious as they come, on that day. In many ways, his innings was an example of what we expect from Nepali team throughout the tournament.
Not for a moment this batsman looked in hurry. He was as calm as they come. Poised, balanced and ready to strike, yet not ready to lose grace that fine cricketers possess. The élan with which he struck that particular ball talked about a new Team Nepal. The team that was not ready to be subdued. In past, we’ve seen Sharad Vesawkar, who’d waver during tough times and so did Team Nepal. We’d seen them crumbling at decisive moments. During moments like these, we’d seen the fans shaking their head, saying, “Not again!”
Pubudu Dassanayake joined Nepal Cricket in October 2011 as the head coach. This scribe had an opportunity to have a talk with him at length. He had said, “Nepali cricketers have the ability, but they are somewhat mentally weak.”
Dassanayake will not have to eat his words though, for he has been the man to turn that around. The almost-swagger that Nepali cricketers now possess is a result of that. This has been the biggest change in Nepali cricket that we could see this year. Team Nepal has a tough task ahead, in the coming year, where they will have to perform better than what they have done so far, playing in WCL Division 3 and ICC T20 Qualifiers.
And as the moment is concerned, Sharad Vesawkar can revisit it, whenever he feels low. This will give him a feeling that he can do it. This is a moment that entire Nepali cricket can build on, for now and for future.
PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 14th April, 2013