Creditable show by Paras Khadka’s boys
Posted by Prabin the सोभित on बुधवार, मार्च 5, 2008
By Prem Dhakal
KATHMANDU, March 4 – Nepali U-19 team returned home Sunday from the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup held in Malaysia with a 10th place finish which is creditable for an associate country but looking at the performance of the team on the field it should be called underachieved.
This Nepali team may have been well below the previous team led by Kaniska Chaugain, that returned home as Plate champion, ability wise but Paras Khadka and his boys had more than a decent chance of going one up on the predecessors.
Kaniska was in imperious form in 2006 and his team had Sharad Vesawkar, Basanta Regmi and Prem Chaudhary to bolster batting apart from the likes of Paras, Gyanendra Malla and w/k Mahesh Chhetri who shouldered batting responsibility this time around as well.
Yet this team looked poised for glory in the initial stage of the tournament and it was no surprise that the inexperience in batting apart from poor luck pegged it back in the end. Nepal had Sri Lanka in trouble in its first league match in Penang with left-arm seamer Amrit Bhattarai reducing the Lankans to 58-4 and it could have been 58-5 if keeper Mahesh had not dropped Sachith Pathirana off the first ball from Amrit.
The most soothing sight for this scribe in the series was the look of genuine worry in the faces of the Lankan legends like Arjuna Ranatunga and Arvinda de Silva sitting just a couple of feet away. Pathirana made the most of his luck and topscored with 62 to push his team to 236-2 but the champion due managed to smile only after Nepali batsmen fell apart after an opening stand of 62.
“We had chances of beating Sri Lanka and getting into the Super Eights. So, I would consider it a matter of missed opportunity,” skipper Paras reflected after the group stage.
Nepal also did well to restrict Australia to just above 200 after the Aussies got off to a flying start but the comical run out of Mahesh Chhetri off a free-hit after Nepal made 11 in the first over triggered a batting collapse that shoved Nepal out of contention for the Super Eights stage.
Nepal played well after that holding nerves to edge a very good Namibian side twice and hammering Zimbabwe by 99 runs on the back of brilliant new ball bowling by Paras and Amrit after a great exhibition of dominant lower-order batting from Puspa Thapa.
Nepal could have still retained the Plate title with a bit of luck with umpires and a show of some courage from Paras to bowl first in the final against West Indies, which had come to the Plate division from a group that included the eventual finalists India and South Africa.
But to be fair, the boys deserve praise for their show in the event and it was only the failure of star batsman Gyanendra Malla that stopped them short of glory. In fact Nepal could have beaten any team in the event with a reasonable batting show.
“We can not expect to find good batsmen, when the highest scores in the selection event are in the 30s,” Nepali coach Roy Dias complained ruing the loss of Gyanendra’s form owing to injury after good showing in practice matches.
His assistant Jagat Tamata agreed. “We do not have good base for batting. We should start two-day and three-day format from school level to improve batting. The boys have a 35-over mindset and lack temperament to play long innings,” Jagat said adding that the tour was good despite poor batting which had only one fifty from Mahesh in the group stage against Namibia.
Paras was great with his bowling and captaincy and looked good in patches as a batsman. And though cricket is a team game, the bigger disappointment of the decision to bat first in the final was that Paras was unable to get the points required to finish as the player of the tournament due to the batting failure.
Amrit bowled very well with the new ball, young Rahul BK was excellent with his left-arm spin and Pupa Thapa showed glimpses of his potential with the bat. And the boys did all this ‘only’ because of their talent.
Nepal was the least prepared among the 16 nations in the tournament and putting the boys in the camp for one month will not produce miracles. And a little bit of incentive for the players won’t hamper either.
Playing for the love of one’s country sounds great in words but to ask the boys to slog away for a paltry return of eight dollars a day, half of that of 2006, in World Cup is asking for too much. The officials may put forward that clichéd answer of poor financial condition but National Sports Council is not that poor to be unable to raise the players’ allowances as a look at the expenses of its touring officials should show.