When Pubudu Dassanayake was appointed the cricket team’s coach for a second time, there was a lot of optimism. There were valid reasons for the optimism too. During his first stint, Dassanayake had done wonders for the national team. In his three years in charge, he had changed the face of the national team taking them to their maiden T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2014.
But, his second stint did not go as expected. He had two main jobs when appointed for the second time in December 2021 – make the team one again and take Nepal to the T20 World Cup in Australia. Looking back, he failed to do both as he left Nepal with nothing but disappointments.
The troubled times
His appointment came at an unfavourable time. Australian Dav Whatmore quit midway and the national team players were in a contractual dispute with the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). CAN had removed Gyanendra Malla as captain and Dipendra Singh Airee as vice-captain and even suspended Sompal Kami and Kamal Singh Airee. Sandeep Lamichhane was chosen to lead the team, but many players refused to go to the closed camp.
Pubudu Dassanayake had a tough task on his hand to settle this as the team needed to be one if they wanted to qualify for the T20 World Cup in Australia. But, the team did not do well, crashing out of the semifinal of the T20 Global Qualifiers in Oman.
As time went by, Dassanayake was not able to completely unify the team as the disjointed team has been underperforming massively in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2. Following two disappointing series in the US and Scotland, Dassanayake resigned from his position stating he wanted to be close to his family living in Canada.
“This was one of the hardest coaching stints in my career,” an emotional Dassakayake said on Wednesday. “I’m resigning because of personal reasons. If I don’t do this, I’ll regret it later in life.”
But, a few hours following his resignation, he was appointed the coach of the Canadian cricket team.
During his term, Nepal played 14 ODIs and 13 T2Os and won 4 ODIs and 10 T20s. He led the team to victory in the Tri-Series against Papua New Guinea(PNG) and Malaysia. But, the team did not perform well in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup League 2. Out of the 12 games, Nepal managed to win only four as they languished seventh in the table, only above PNG losing seven games in the three series.
There were a few games that Nepal lost although they should have won. There is a general feeling that Nepal lost two games they should have won against the UAE. The same goes for the games they lost against the USA and Oman in Texas. Recently, Nepal were in a commanding position but lost both games against Namibia due to poor batting.
Nepal’s batting looked particularly weak during Pubudu Dassanayake’s reign. Prior to his appointment, the team’s batting was aggressive, but that soon turned defensive as players, especially the openers, did not look comfortable under pressure.
A good example is a game against the UAE in Oman during the T20 Global Qualifiers. Nepal were unbeaten in the tournament when they faced the UAE in the semifinal. Chasing 176, Nepal crumbled under pressure as they lost by 68 runs.
In March, Nepal beat PNG in both the games held in the UAE. But, when the two teams faced each other in Nepal, the hosts lost both games. Again, the team did beat PNG and Malaysia in the T20 series in Nepal, which goes to show the team did fairly well in the T20s compared to ODIs under Pubudu Dassanayake.
Hopes for the future
The team that Pubudu Dassanayake was looking after was relatively young as the average age of the squad was around 23. This is why the team have not been able to perform, says Dassanayake.
“The team lacks experience. They are very young. The captain is only 21 so the future is bright for this team,” says Dassanayake.
He says that the two games they lost in the US were due to a lack of experience within the squad.
“Scotland was a different story. The conditions there were different and we couldn’t take advantage of it,” he says.
But, Pubudu Dassanayake does say that Nepal had what it takes to become the best associate cricket team in the next year.
“The boys have what it takes,” he says.
This story was translated from the original Nepali version and edited for clarity and length.