Diamonds are Forever!

Sports writers often discuss over how to measure greatness of players. One way, some suggest, is the number of records they set. Some say, it is the longevity, while some stress on the sheer dominance they exert while on the field.

Fulfilling one of these may make you extraordinary. But, what remains elusive is that one method, one yardstick to measure greatness, or genius in sport. However, there are some players scattered in the history of sports that ranked up equally well, in all these criteria.

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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 ‘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.”

The Worry Called Cricket

If you were tovisit Tribhuvan University Grounds these days, you could see Nepali cricketers,led by captain Paras Khadka, in practice drills. They are busy in preparationfor the SAARC Under-25 Twenty20 Cricket, which Maldives will host.
As the boys looksprightly during the net sessions, a rumor that yours truly heard this weekcomes as a flash. The story is: Recently, President of Cricket Association ofNepal, Binay Raj Pandey called Paras Khadka for a meeting. Paras sent a messagesaying he would meet the new President of CAN, as the change of guards islikely.

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The Art of Losing

Nepali youth team didnot do well at the AFU U-16 Championship group D Qualifiers at home, despiteour best wishes and sizeable crowd support. First two matches, the boys wereblanked. Never a good sign if you are pinning your hopes on young talents, whensome of the youths in the national team are showing signs of fading early.
Before the startof the series, Coach Sunil Shrestha told us, ‘There’s not much difference amongthe sides at the age-group level’. That meant we had a good chance, and we grewhopeful. Of the four countries participating, we were the lowest ranked side.Oman, Saudi Arabia and Syria are ranked ahead of us by FIFA, well 30 places ormore. But these were age-group matches. Our boys did not appear too weak, infront of them. And at this level, skill is considered ahead of physique.
But we wereblanked.

A sign of Good Times to come?

Heard a conversation in a public vehicle: God must be Nepali. For he made sure we dowell in two sports in a single day.
Needless to say, the person inquestion was talking about Nepali football team’s performance against Jordan (2014 FIFA World Cup qualifiers) and U-19 cricket team’s start in ICC U-19 WorldCup qualifiers.
Yes,Nepali Colts beat Afghanistan convincingly. Most were expecting the result, maybe not with such a margin though.
But in another case, Jordan advanced to the group stage of the qualifiers, beatingNepal by a huge margin. The scores, in aggregate, stood at 10-1 in favor ofJordan, while Nepal managed merely a draw at home. So what’s the fuss about? A draw?

Olympic spirit: Did we not lose it?

More than 200 countries – 205 in theory – marked the Olympic day on June 23rd. The day has significance in history as it was the same day in the year 1894, when International Olympic Committee was formally established.
As every National Olympic Committees marked the day, their focus was the slogan – Sports for Everyone. Only we, perhaps, marked it without getting the message. For us, it was not for everyone. That has to be exactly the reason why there were two Olympic Committees organizing their own program in two different places. While one chose birthplace of Buddha, the other one chose the capital (as if Buddha was against unity).
If you find it astonishing, you’re in for more shock. Two of our best known sportspersons, and the only players we have produced so far to get ‘qualified’ for an Olympic event, were not the part of celebrations. Yes, Deepak Bista and Sangina Baidya were not present in either of the programs. And why would they? After all, they would not like to be linked with yet another controversy. And which celebration would they choose to attend? They’re affiliated to National Sports Council and would not like to go against what their bosses say.

Joy Forever

Sachin Tendulkar scored his 50th century in Test matches this week. The news made headlines. Of course, the feat deserved it. At one point of time, say only a decade or two ago, it was way beyond anybody’s comprehension that a tally of 50 could ever be reached, especially that modern day cricket was getting more and more competitive. Those who wrote on cricket then would talk of 30s as a benchmark; none could even think that half a century of centuries could actually be accomplished.
So the feat was definitely special, worth printing in gold. But for fans it was something even more. It was an end to their wait, for they were waiting for the genius to reach there. As if some divine being had told them, this is a part of their pre-planned journey – watching Sachin making history.

Lessons to be Learnt?

Deepak Maharjan was mere 7-year old when Chitra Bahadur Gurung won Nepal a bronze in the 1990 Asian Games, incidentally in Chinese city of Beijing. So it’s highly unlikely that he might have been inspired by that event. And after that, we could never see the podium finish at the Asian level, as far as the pugilists are concerned.
Incidentally, it had to be China again, where the medal drought finally ended for the sport. And incidentally, it had to be another humble player who finished at the podium. In sports, it is said, you don’t win silver, forget bronze. You only win gold.

The Politics of Sport

Not long ago, our Finance Minister dropped a bombshell on sports fraternity. Of course, like any other politician, he wasn’t thinking sports while talking. Rather, like any other politician, his reasons were political.

The Finance Minister said that Nepal may not be participating in the 16th Asiad, in Guangzhou, China, this November. He said, if the government cannot bring in budget before the festivals, it will not have any money to spend for the participation. His logic, albeit founded on political premises, sounds very simple. His explanation was, ‘what is the point of nation’s pride when there are dangers nation may not remain so’.

Bravo, Mister Minister!  Bull’s eye!

This ain’t cricket!

The so called ‘Gentlemen’s Game’ is under yet another attack. The dark side of cricket, which inspires some to make truckloads of money at the blink of an eye, has resurfaced to show its repulsive face yet again. The incident at the Mecca of cricket has added to the cricketing jargon. Now we have to deal with the term ‘spot fixing’. As if we’d already grown comfortable with the term called ‘match fixing’.
This is not the first time allegations have come to Pakistani cricketers or Pakistani cricket. However, it must be one of the worst blows ever. After terror attacks and security concerns that snatched many international matches – and the much needed money – away from Pakistan, this must be the new low for our flood stricken neighbors.

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