November 27, 2013 was a historic day for Nepali cricket. On this day, the national side, for the first time ever, qualified for a cricket world cup, and one of the team’s senior batsmen established himself as the team’s ‘finisher’.
Sharad managed to find a gap in the fortress to steal the winning run.
In the decider, Nepal was up against familiar rivals Hong Kong, and the match venue was Abu Dhabi. Chasing 144, Nepal was in a comfortable position to win the match, but a mini batting collapse sent the match to the wire. In the final over, Nepal needed 13 runs to win, and on the crease was Sharad Vesawker. He hit a brave six down the ground, and in the next ball, fortune favoured him. A ‘Chinese cut’ (an inside-edge) got him four runs. When the last ball of the match was being bowled the scores were level. Sharad managed to find a gap in the fortress HK had created to stop him from stealing the winning run.
For any cricket fan in Nepal, what happened next was like a fairy tale.
The fairy tale now seems to have ended (or at least gone into an intermission); the team failed to qualify for this year’s T20 World Cup.
World Cricket League Division I is where Nepal’s hopes of qualifying to the One Day World Cup rests. Nepal now face Namibia in their home ground in Kirtipur on April 16 and 18, and the team will heavily rely again on Sharad to seal crucial wins against Nambia.
“During the last few matches of the WCL, our finishing has let us down,” says team skipper Paras Khadka. “We have lost matches but the margin of our loss has been very small.” That goes for both batting and bowling, says the captain. While bowling has been team Nepal’s area of strength, batting has not been at par with it.
“In Nepal, the pitches do not favour batting. That’s why we haven’t been able to produce batsmen who can bat on fast wickets,” says Sharad. This time, however, Nepali batsmen have one huge advantage. They are playing in their home ground.
“In Nepal, the pitches do not favour batting. That’s why we haven’t been able to produce batsmen who can bat on fast wickets.”
After weeks of speculation that the ICC might host the game in India (due to the dispute in Nepal’s cricket association), the ICC has just confirmed that the matches will be played in Nepal, and the governing body itself will organise it.
“After a gap of two years, we are playing an international match in Nepal. We’ve played many matches outside the country, but the kind of atmosphere we get here is different from the rest,” says Sharad.
“Of course there is more pressure to perform here. But we have always played well here. I scored my first century for the senior side, in Kirtipur itself.”
The 27-year-old says, cricket is the only thing he’s thinking about right now. What about retirement? What about future plans? “Nope, I am not thinking about any of that. I am only thinking about playing good cricket, and everything else is a distraction.”
“I am only thinking about playing good cricket, and everything else is a distraction.”
“There are times when the opponents come out aggressively and do sledging… I was about to hit one of the Scots with my bat..”
Sarad, who made his way to the national squad through the junior sides, says his experience on and off the field has made him calm and relaxed on the field, and he’s better equipped than ever before to take on match pressure. “There are times when the opponents come out aggressively and do sledging. I remember a match in 2006 we played against Scotland. The situation was tense.”
“I was about hit one of the players with the bat.”
But now, Sharad says he understands that at the end of the day, winning is all that counts, and that is the only thing that is on his mind right now.