That Nepal has qualified for the T20 World Cup (TWC) to be held in Bangladesh in 2014 is inarguably the biggest day in the history of Nepali sports. A dream – a mere fantasy just three years ago – is now a reality. November 27, 2013, the day Nepal beat Hong Kong in its pursuit of a TWC place, is set to go down as the golden day in the history of the country, and rightly so because cricket has been one of the very few occasions, of late, that we Nepalis can cheer about.
However, as the international commentator of the match said, Nepal’s entry into the TWC has not been meteoric or seismic for the Nepali supporters. It has been a long wait - 17 years have passed since Nepal started playing in international cricket tournaments. They have discussed, supported and dreamt of seeing Nepal in the World Cup, where it will play against the big giants of the game.
All the Nepali players, in particular Captain Paras Khadka, have been instrumental in the feat Nepal has achieved. And credit must also go to the head coach, Pubudu Dissanayake, for doing all he could to bring the tremendous improvement seen in the batting. The opportunities for international exposure that he provided to the Nepali players helped improve their skills and instill self-confidence in the players, which surely are the other reasons behind Nepal’s success. A big thank you is also due to former national coach Roy Luke Dias, who currently coaches the Malaysian cricket team, who helped Nepal find its feet in the international cricket tournaments.
And let us not forget the fans who had a big role to play in securing Nepal’s berth in the TWC. Though somewhat unpleasant, it’s a fact that the ICC World Cricket League Division 5 match between Nepal and the USA was won partly by the riot caused by the fans, which helped Nepal sneak past Singapore by a run rate of 0.0035.
Fans have supported the Nepali cricket team passionately, and it certainly is a great advantage. This time around as well, even on working days, Nepali fans working in the UAE turned out in their thousands to support their home country, especially during the match against Hong Kong. Back in Nepal also, people spent hours refreshing the website to view the updated scores for the games that were not broadcast. The fan following for the game is really spectacular and shows a lot of promise for it to grow in the country.
Nepal’s TWC success surely is the result of all round effort and coordination among the players, coach and Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). However, despite all the credit showered on CAN, the cricket body has shown lapses in its functioning and deserves to be criticised. For instance, CAN was slapped a fine of US$ 84,000 by the International Cricket Council (ICC) for failing to submit its financial reports on time.
Also, there was news that the cricket body was unable to make available grounds and pitches for practice even as the Nepal team was heading for the World T20 Cup Qualifiers in the UAE. Failure to submit reports on time and the grounds just shows sheer negligence on the part of CAN, and the disappointment of skipper Paras Khadka and other members of the team over the issue would have jeopardised their performance. Good that it didn’t, and we hope that no such mistakes will be repeated.
An important aspect seen in the promotion of Nepali cricket is the involvement of the corporate sector in the game. Recently, eight private firms pledged to provide jobs and monthly allowances to the national team players which, according to the Nepali skipper, have ‘increased the confidence level of the Nepali cricketers.’
The involvement of the corporate sector should bring in the much-needed money for the game. This has a chain effect in encouraging youngsters to get involved in the sport and eventually helping the game to grow in the country.
As for the government, it must realise that the World Cup berth is just a start of the journey, and expectations from the supporters will keep on rocketing. Thus, it must allocate adequate budget needed for infrastructural development and economic incentives to attract a new breed of youngsters to the sport.
The government must understand that a World Cup berth is the farthest point a group of motivated individuals with a passionate mentor can take the game to. Further progress needs some structural planning and management. Meanwhile, it must also keep politics out of the game.
Message of unity
Finally, after what has been said above, let’s give a sociological and political perspective to the game. As highlighted by Rabindra Mishra, chief of BBC Nepali Sewa, if we look at the team members of the Nepali cricket team, it almost reflects the population composition of Nepal. It may be a coincidence, but Nepal has achieved its greatest height when it has fought together as a herd. This should serve as a message to the political parties to unite the people coming from different backgrounds for the common dream of developing the nation. Moreover, should cricket flourish in Nepal, as in India or elsewhere, it can be a thread to unite the country that is so diverse from every perspective.
(Acharya is currently specializing in Sustainable Development in Uppsala University, Sweden, as an Erasmus Mundus fellow.)