Worry for the Coach!

Nepal’s chances of going beyond the first round of ICC U-19 World Cup have been killed again. A few million hearts were broken repeatedly by Australia, Ireland and England – all hubs of cricket.

Win or loss is a part of the game and should be taken with a positive spirit. However, there is more to it than win or loss, or mere results. For the first time since Nepal participated in the U-19 Cricket World Cup – the first being in 2000 – the Nepali teenagers finished the group stage without a single win. In our six appearances so far, we’ve had wins in all the previous Youth World Cups, mostly surprise wins against opponents ranked above us.

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It’s about the attitude

A cricketer, who plays at the national level, bumped into a few sports journalists at a café. Incidentally, I happened to witness the conversation.

He asked, “When are the national championships happening?” He was promptly replied, “It’s not likely to happen this year.”

While it may sound as a normal conversation, it is definitely not normal. It goes on to show, at a deeper level, the problems our cricket faces. A cricketer has to ask a journalist about when a tournament that he is supposed to play in takes place.

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Parachute Coaching

Come August and Nepal will play, for the sixth time out of nine, in the ICC U-19 World Cup. If you consider that – at the World Cup – Nepali Colts are pooled along with Australia, England and Ireland, there will be little debate on how important its present campaign at the ACC U-19 Asia Cup. Playing against Pakistan and India at the Asia Cup, in a run up to the World Cup, should be considered a dream preparation for any team.

When Nepal plays Pakistan during the inaugural U-19 Asia Cup, it is but inevitable not to remember their meeting a decade and a few months ago. That had prompted Lynn McConnell to write on ESPNcricinfo: “Nepal may be the location of the world’s highest mountains but their Under-19 World Cup cricketers scaled the cricketing heights with a momentous upset victory in the ICC event in Christchurch today.”

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Nationals: Oops, missed it!

Past couple of weeks have been very exciting for young cricketers of Nepal and the excitement is likely to continue. Imagine meeting one of the best leaders of the game just before you’re readying yourself for a major tournament. It’s like going to your class science test after a lecture from Stephen Hawking.

Yes, meeting Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Indian cricket captain, just before the U-19 Asia Cup might do more than good to the youngsters, who start the tournament playing against India – arguably the strongest side in the competition. After all, this man is known to have inspired Indian team to World Cup title.

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Leading from the front!

By the times these lines are read, Nepal’s cricket skipper Paras Khadka would be acclimatizing in Canada, playing for Ontario Cricket Academy & Club, becoming its first Nepali signing.

Canada may not inspire awe as far cricket is concerned, at least not like the Test playing countries. But we cannot forget that this country has already played a World Cup, and has cricket history dating back to 1844, when it played first ever international cricket fixture, against USA.

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Under 16 or 16 Plus?

Around a week ago, when U-16 National Championship was being played in the capital, a message appeared on social networking site facebook, “Went to watch U-16 nationals. Sadly, most players were 16-plus. Real under 16 players are bound to be affected if overage players play”.

It is almost obvious that this person had a boy playing in the championship and in most likelihood, was a real U-16 player.

One of the reasons, the U-16 national championship was organized during SLC exams – when boys of 16 and thereabouts are appearing for the tests touted as ‘Iron Gate’ – was that a team needed to be selected for the upcoming ACC U-16 Elite Cup, to be played in Malaysia in May. Nepal is grouped with Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait and Malaysia in the championship.

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Coming of Age

Bangladesh ‘almost’ became the Asian Champions in Cricket. One stroke and they could have been the winners of the Asia Cup. Despite loss in the title match, Bangladesh cricket now stands a few inches taller than it was, just before the championship arrived.

Bangladesh may not have won the title, but this championship showed that this team, always considered as the ‘also ran’, has finally evolved into a formidable team that is capable of defeating bigger and supposedly stronger teams.

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Endgame for Binod Das?

The national cricket team is embarking on a tour to India, as a preparation for the ICC World T20 Qualifiers, which is to be held in the UAE in third week of March. The 18-member preliminary squad is to go to Mumbai to play 5-6 T20 matches and one 50-over match, with the local teams.

This is not the first preparation tour for Nepal and neither shall it be the last. But this time around, the team will be traveling without former skipper Binod Das, who has been dropped from the team.

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If everything goes well…

“If everything goes according to the plan, we mightqualify for the World Cup,” said Nepal’s cricket coach Pubudu Dassanayake,in a conversation to yours truly recently, before he was to present his 3-monthplan to Nepal’s cricket leaders.
The point that the Sri Lankan born coach means well forCricket Nepal could be denied here. For the line is an optimist one. But thecatch, for many, would be the big ‘if’ present there. Many would say: Ifeverything went according to the plan, we would have played previous world cup.For around a decade ago, we were ‘readying’ ourselves to become the next bigthing in Asian Cricket.

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The Will to Win

“Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.”
Perhaps the adage exemplifies how sports changed in thelatter half of the 20th century. Attributed to UCLA coach Henry Russell Sanders and/or Americanfootball coach Vince Lombardi, the saying exemplifies how professionally sportsbegan to be taken post 1950s.
There was a clear shift from the Olympic spirit from thenon, which preached us that ‘The most important thing is not to win but to takepart, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but thestruggle ‘. While the Olympic spirit gave us a ‘chance to celebrate our sharedhumanity’, Sanders and Lombardi taught us how to be ‘winners’.

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The ‘F’ Factor

2001: An important year inhistory of Nepali sport, especially cricket. The year was to change how cricketwas viewed in Nepal. As Kathmandu played host to Youth Asia Cup (later termedas ACC U-19 Cup), the home team defeated Malaysia in the final, with Roy Dias –former Test Cricketer from Sri Lanka – in charge of young boys that were toform a core for the senior team later.
As Malaysian Colts faced Nepaliboys in the final, the Malaysian coach – incidentally a Sri Lankan – told yours truly, during the innings break, “It’s difficult for my boys playingagainst a good team and such a huge crowd. When they play at home, not morethan 100-150 people watch them.”

Curious case of Sharad Veswakar

‘I love scoring goals for England and playing for England. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t retire – I love playing for my country.’ said David Beckham once, despite knowing he did not feature in the future plan of English football team. Arguably, David Beckham is one of the most celebrated names, if you consider European football post 1990s.
Sports psychologists tell you: Pride of playing for the country does make sportsmen run that extra mile, push the barriers a bit further, and makes them feel responsible. Because, in the back of their head, they’re thinking about trying to uplift masses that back them.
But can we imagine a situation where a player plays without a country? Impossible you’d say? Then what is the case of Sharad Veswakar, one of the mainstays of Nepali Cricket team?
Sharad Veswakar, who has represented Nepal right from Under-15 level to national cricket team does not have a citizenship of Nepal. Something wrong there? Yours truly says – it’s completely insane. It’s as if he doesn’t exist, except in the record books, where his century for Nepal stands.

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