The New Year has begun for sports sector in slightly unconventional way. Right on the second day of the brand new year, we saw an exchange of blows on a football pitch. Yes,don’t be surprised… A football pitch. If you witnessed the players in that exchange, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the players had one drink toomany, while bidding adieu to the past year.
Some went onto call it undesirable, while some chose to ignore it. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no place for violence in sports. I’ve never ever been able to understand if there could be ‘desire’ for such a thing. It has to becondemned in the strongest of words, and actions. If your children want to be a football player in future and if they saw it, tell them this is exactly whatthey should avoid on a pitch, and off the pitch too. Hopefully, it was aone-off incident and we don’t see it replicated in future. Five red cards in amatch involving top teams cannot be a matter of pride for any.
“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.
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.”
“Don’t whisper a word. The whole worldwill be able to hear you. Wankhede is stunned into silence. Rampaul spoils theparty, Sammy holds the catch at second slip.”
Perhaps obituaries would soundcomparatively pleasant to some cricket fans. The lines appeared on ESPNCricinfoweb portal, as Sachin Tendulkar departed without scoring what could have been his100th international century – just one-hit-over-the-boundary shortof it. As many firsts that the man has pocketed, this would be another first in the history of the game.
The dreaded words appeared: ‘SRTendulkar c Sammy b Rampaul 94’. At little under 140 kmph, this may not be the best ball West Indian pacer Ravi Rampaul might have bowled, but certainly willbe the most memorable for him.
These are difficult times to be a cricketer here. Mind you, under normal circumstances it would be busy times with a major championship not too far away (ACC T20 Cup gets underway in a fortnight).
Cricketers in Nepal have always considered themselves unlucky. In the beginning days ofcricket here, most could not play, given it was only within a reach of richerfew. Hence most were unlucky. Till late 90s, Nepal had no participation atinternational level, so the players were said to be unlucky. When the cricket administration prospered and coffers did not show zero balance, the cricketers said they were unlucky as they did not receive anything out of it.
“I reallyrespected him” – This remark may neither raise eyebrows nor would itregister very strongly on anyone’s mind. But if you know that it was SachinTendulkar making such a remark, you would stick to the word ‘really’ and startadmiring the person, whoever the great batsman is referring to.
Tendulkar wasreferring to Former Indian captain MansoorAli Khan Pataudi, who passed away on 22nd of September 2011. Itwould be interesting to know that Tendulkar was barely a 2-year old whenPataudi played his last International match. It needs sheer genius in a personto earn respect, in the heart of a cricketer who started playing seriouscricket, a decade after he had retired.
Most of us, who have grown in the constant shower of cricket, justbecause we are close to India, have heard of him. Hardly a few have seen himplay. Yet we know of him. Probably, among the cricketers who played before thetelevision era, he was the only icon that we knew, with the exception of Sir DonBradman and Great Garry Sobers. Not many can boast to have such a longshelf-life after retiring, something most sportsmen would envy.
The news of National SportsCouncil (NSC) proposing to organize National Games in the first quarter ofcoming year must have brought back butterflies in the abdomen of the numerous athletes.This normally happens, even to the top players; just before they are take on anopponent in a match. Not necessarily a sign of nervousness, but the stress ofapproaching duel. Stress, by itself, is not bad.
Seven months away it is, yet someof the players must already be licking their lips at a chance of another roundof competitions. For if they’re not, they’re not worthy of being the athleteswe would be proud of. An athlete, like a warrior, should welcome anyopportunity of a round of duel.