For a decade, the Nepal cricket sector revolved around Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Binod Bhandari, Sharad Vesawkar and Basanta Regmi. From playing in the T20 World Cup to receiving an ODI status, these players had an important role.
Khadka has already retired from the team whereas Regmi apparently is living abroad. Vesawkar last played in World Cup Cricket League 2 against Oman in September 2021. Likewise, Malla seems to be playing as he appeared in a three-nation series of World Cup Cricket league 2, in Dubai on March 22.
But in the ODI series against Papua New Guinea held after the Dubai match, even Malla was also not in the team. He also did not play the matches of the three-nation T20 series currently underway in Kathmandu. This means, for the first time since the mid-2000s, Nepal played without Khadka and his contemporaries. This generational transformation comes with opportunities and challenges for Nepal cricket.
The big change
Lately, the former Nepal cricket captain Gyanendra Malla was out of form. Wicketkeeper-batter Bhandari is being irregularly selected in the team. Bhandari was not in the team during the T20 World Cup qualifier held in Oman a month back. But, he played for the team in the recently held World Cup league 2 in UAE.
Now, with the signing off of these two players, there is no one who is in the team in the 2000s.
Now, the Nepal cricket national team is in charge of the youth. The captain of the team for both ODI and T20 formats, Sandeep Lamichane is just 21. In a team announced for the two recent series, Sompal Kami is the most experienced player to play international matches. He played in the T20 World Cup for the first time in 2014. Then, Karan KC and Aarif Sheikh come on the list of senior players. Both of the players made their debut in international matches in 2015.
Based on age, 30-year-old Karan KC is the senior player in the Nepal cricket national team now. After that, 28-year-old Sushan Bhari takes place on the list. Bhari joined the national senior team in 2017. Captain Lamichhane joined the national team in 2016.
Dilip Nath, Anil Shah and Rohit Paudel made their debut in the national team in 2018 whereas Avinash Bohora, Pawan Sharraf and Kushal Malla are members of the 2019 batch.
Currently, Dev Khanal and Aadil Ansari have made their entry into the senior squad. Left-handed batter Dilip Nath and wicketkeeper-batter Anil Shah have returned to the national team after 2018.
In the present squad, there are eight players who made their debut in 2021. Kamal Singh Airee was also added to the team in 2020 only.
Bhim Sarki made his debut in the senior Nepal cricket team during the last game of League 2 against Papua New Guinea in the UAE. He was already included in the squad in 2019 but waited for three years to debut.
This time, different teams have been listed for the ODI and T20 series; seven players have been included in both formats. A total of 23 players have been selected for the national team from two different squads.
Sandeep Lamichane, Aarif Sheikh, Kushal Bhurtel, Sompal Kami, Dipendra Singh Airee, Sagar Dhakal and Kamal Singh Airee are in both ODI and T20 formats.
Anil Shah, Bikram Shob, Sushan Bhari, Rohit Kumar Poudel, Pawa Sharraf, Dev Khanal, Gulshan Jha and Bikram Jha are only in the ODI squad. Whereas, Karan KC, Avinash Bohora, Bibek Yadav, Dilip Nath, Lokesh Bam, Kushal Malla and Aadil Ansari are in the T20 squad.
As no senior players have been selected for the current Nepal cricket squad, young players now have great responsibilities towards the team. However, as of late, most of the players of the current team have been frequently playing for the national team.
“We want to give a rest to senior players and focus on young ones,” says Dipendra Chaudhary, the head of the Nepal cricket team selection committee. “We gave a rest to Malla and Bhandari. Later, we will again call them in the camp.”
“To make a strong bench for the future Nepal cricket we are testing young players,” he adds.
Dev Khanal and Aadil Ansari, the debutant in the national team, have already played for the U-19 national team. Khanal was even captain of the U-19 team. After performing well in the recent matches, both of the players played during the U-19 Asia Cup in December in Dubai.
The contemporaries of these two players in the national team–Kushal Malla, Lokesh Bam and Gulshan Jha–have recently acquired high-performance training in India.
Kushal Malla and Dilip Nath are left-handed batters. Similarly, pace bowler Gulshan Jha is also a left-handed batter while he is a right-handed bowler. Malla and Nath both are in the T 20 team and Jha is in the ODI team.
Already visible positive signs
As the Nepal cricket team are in charge of the younger generation, few players have already shown positive signs in the recently held matches. Rohit Paudel scored a century against Papua New Guinea on Friday. Similarly, another Nepali batter Dipendra Singh Aaire also scored a century against Papua New Guinea on Saturday. It was his first century for Nepal in an ODI match.
Meanwhile, Nepal’s captain and leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane has become the first Nepali cricketer to take 50 wickets in One Day International matches.
Similarly, Nepal won against Papua New Guinea in the first match of the Three nation T20 series, on Monday at TU cricket ground, Kirtipur. Hosts Nepal won by 15 runs.
But, it does not mean that there are no challenges in front of Nepal cricket. Team captain Lamichhnae and head coach Pubudhu Dassanayake both agree that the team have room for improvement.
“We need to convert the small scores into big ones,” says Lamichane. “We all have been working on it.”
Likewise, Lamichhane also says the team also need to improve balling.
“As all the players in the team are young, we need to improve in various areas,” says Dassanayake after the match on Monday. “For now, the problem is being a team of young ones. The base of the team is being prepared. We are getting ready as a team.”
However, Dassanayake is happy with the overall performance of the team and the potential they hold.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.