As Nepali cricket gains momentum, infrastructure lags behind

The Nepali cricket team welcomed at the airport on September 6.

After battling it out against two of the best ODI cricket teams in the world, India and Pakistan, the Nepali cricket team returned home on September 6 after taking part in the Asia Cup. As expected, the team was warmly welcomed by eager fans and media upon their arrival at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

The excitement surrounding Nepal’s matches against Pakistan and India was evident. Crowds gathered to watch the game, and political leaders shared photos of themselves enjoying the match. What was particularly heartening was witnessing individuals and organisations announcing cash prizes for every four, six, and wicket.

Balen Shah, the Mayor of Kathmandu metropolitan city, travelled to Sri Lanka to watch the match against India. Upon his return, he declared that the city would undertake the construction of a stadium, provided the government allocates 12.57 acres of land. He stood out as the sole political leader to pledge investment in infrastructure.

Nepali cricket has gone up a level. The team’s performance since February serves as a testament to this progress. Their participation in the Asia Cup further highlighted just how much the cricket team has progressed. Nevertheless, the infrastructure has remained stagnant. This has prompted many to ponder on the potential outcomes if the state had invested in creating a more conducive environment and better facilities for the team.

Grounds for progress

Nepali cricket
File: Underconstruction Mulpani Cricket Stadium

The country only has one proper cricket ground in the country – the TU Cricket Ground. Even that does not have proper facilities as many call it archaic. Mulpani International Cricket Ground, which was envisioned over two decades, is not complete as the country barely holds international level tournaments at the TU Cricket Ground.

“The players even have problems training because we do not have proper training facilities,” says Rohit Paudel, captain of the Nepali national cricket team who calls on leaders to develop the infrastructure.

Cricket teams of all age groups train at the TU Cricket Ground. There have been instances where three teams either train simultaneously or have to wait for one to conclude before they can begin their training sessions.

When Nepal qualified to take part in the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal announced he would ensure floodlights are set up at the TU Cricket Ground. However, the installation of lights was halted due to a mistake in the tender procedure issued by the National Sports Council. It remains uncertain when the next tender will be issued.

The project to build two cricket stadiums at Mulpani has also not been completed. Even though the ground did hold matches during the ACC Premier Cup, the stadium is still not complete 20 years on.

Although the government has announced plans to develop the infrastructure of both international stadiums, work has not been carried out. The government while announcing the annual budget for 2022/23 said new cricket stadiums will be built in Biratnagar, Baitadi, Kailali and Kathmandu. However, the plan has not materialised yet.

Paudel says the team now needs conditions and pitches to ensure they play better in the international tournaments they take part in. This, he says, will only happen if the country has more cricket grounds.

“The game is all about confidence. We need to have pitches that are spin-friendly and pace-friendly so that we can prepare accordingly,” says Paudel.

The next step

Asia Cup
Nepali cricket players during the match against Pakistan on August 30, 2023. Photo: AFP/RSS

Nepal’s performance against both India and Pakistan was commendable. The scorecard might show it was a one-sided game, but there were instances where Nepal showed they were there for a fight. The Nepali cricket team even caught the eyes of many globally announcing themselves on the biggest stage. This has built the confidence in the players that they can go toe to toe against the best in the world.

“While playing against India we tackled a number of short balls.  We played well even when their best ballers were bowling against us,” says Paudel. “The more we play against them, the better we will get.”

The Cricket Association of Nepal believes the team can take on anyone after taking on the number one and two ODI teams in the world.

“The Nepali cricket team was nervous against Pakistan but the way we stepped up against India was quite amazing. This team and go a long way,” says Pradeep Majgaiyan, the team’s manager.

Paudel expressed gratitude on behalf of the team to players such as Paras Khadka, Shakti Gauchan, and others who played instrumental roles in elevating Nepali cricket to new heights. He vowed that this current team would continue to uphold and build upon this legacy.

Power of positivity

Newly appointed Nepal cricket head coach Monty Desai. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
The head coach of the Nepali cricket team Monty Desai. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

After his appointment as head coach in February, Monty Desai has been promoting the message of a happy dressing room. To ensure everyone is together, he has done a lot. That, the players believe has been key as they have played with a fearless attitude as seen against India.

Take Aasif Sheikh’s performance against India. Upon returning to Nepal, Sheikh said how his 58 against India has instilled confidence in him and this was mostly due to Desai’s power of positive thinking.

Desai went a step further and personally requested Indian players to present medals to Nepali cricketers who performed well in the match. Sheikh expressed a sense of pride in receiving a medal from cricketing icon Virat Kholi.

Along with Sheikh, Sompal Kami and Dipendra Sing Airee were also awarded medals from Hardik Pandya and Rahul Dravid respectively.

The team had a great outing at the Asia Cup. Players had interactions with the best in the world who wished them the best. However, the team needs more tha just wishes. They need a better foundation so the next time they play, they can push these teams to the limit.

While this tournament provided a valuable learning opportunity, CAN knows the pressing need to invest in the team. The government is also aware of this necessity, and learning opportunity, CAN knows that it needs to invest in the team. The government knows this too and the investment needs to come fast or else we will see a repeat of what happened in 2014 when Nepal took part in the World T20 In Bangladesh.

This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.

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Dahal is a sports journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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