Nepal cricket team has left its legion fans in utter disappointment after a year of crescendo-decrescendo performances. Nepal’s last place finish in group stage in the recently concluded World T20 Qualifiers represents the trough of team’s lack-luster outing this season.
On the other hand Nepal’s Asian nemesis Hong Kong has been on the rise unlike any other team in associate cricket. Having qualified for its first ICC flagship event – World T20 2014 alongside Nepal, Hong Kong has since then gained the ODI status and in this edition of World T20 Qualifiers it became the first Asian country to qualify for World T20 2016 – defeating much fancied Ireland and Afghanistan in the process.
Nepal finished 4th in the WCL Division 2 -2015 just like Hong Kong did in 2011. With the 4th place finish Hong Kong had then qualified for the World Cup Qualifier (WCQ) 2014 in New Zealand. Hong Kong dedicated next two years preparing for and only for WCQ in New Zealand and built a very strong team around it. Papua New Guinea (PNG) hares a similar story finishing 3rd in Division 2. Hong Kong and PNG both earned ODI status after WCQ in New Zealand.
With ICC revamping the previous WCL structure, unlike Hong Kong, Nepal hasn’t yet qualified for the World Cup Qualifier (WCQ) 2018. Nepal will play in 2015-2017 ICC World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) – ensuring year long cricket for the national side for next 2 years. The top four teams from the 8 team WCLC will qualify for the WCQ. With World T20 and Intercontinental Cup out of the picture Nepal just like Hong Kong, has 2 years to completely focus on WCQ.
The fact that Nepal is exactly where Hong Kong was in 2011, gives Nepal hope of emulating Hong Kong’s success. Part of that hope will be intricately intertwined with Mulpani Cricket Stadium. Mukpani is set be the first of its kind cricket facility in the country – with 2 grounds, indoor training hall, media box and dressing rooms. Once completed it will be the largest stadium in the country with stands and grass banks accommodating over 30,000 people.
The Government has allocated 110 million rupees for construction of Mulpani Cricket Stadium in this year budget. When completed Mulpani stadium will be the first and only cricket stadium in the country and we can take a lot of pride in fact that it will be the first International Cricket facility we built on our own money and skills
The stadium is already half complete and it is 6-months-of-dedicated-work away from hosting domestic matches – a year of that from hosting international matches. Completion of this facility will be pivotal in addressing issues with youth and domestic cricket and ensuring Nepal’s 2018 WCQ berth. It will allow development of the game in terms of learning to host quality international tournaments.
Renaissance of Youth Cricket
The senior team’s recent success has put Nepal’s youth cricket in jeopardy. Between 2000-2008 Nepal’s U-19 team had featured in all U-19 World Cups and had defeated 6 national sides. Paras, Gyanendra, Vesawkar, Shakti, Basant – the core of the current came from those glorious days of youth cricket. With national side barely playing 1 tournament in a year TU used to be home to our youth cricket. With the senior team now playing 4-5 tournaments a year the TU facility is almost never available for the youth side and it has severely affected their performance.
An instance is 2013 ACC U-19 Elite Cup the U-19 team went without proper closed camp owing to the senior side’s preparation for WCL Div-3 in Bermuda. As a result the youth side finished fourth in the tournament, Nepal worst performance ever in ACC U-19 event. Paras Khadka skipper of the national cricket team often laments about how budding cricketers in the country are not getting opportunities that he got.
Mulpani stands as a solution to this. Once completed the MCG will be the long due gift to the national side who have given so much to this country- cutting across ethnic and cultural lines the cricket team has brought all Nepalese together, celebrating a victory or lamenting a loss. The stadium will be an ideal way to say “Thank You”.
It will provide quality facility and guilt free environment for the national team to train and improve. TU Cricket Ground can then return to brushing up young players and making the bench heavy so that the selectors can fall back on them when needed.
The way regional and global (WCL) tournaments are being organized these days( 6 teams’ league with 3 matches played in a day) it requires at least 3 quality grounds to qualify to host one of these tournament. In TU and Pulchowk we have two decent grounds but we are still one short. This void is the main reason Nepal hasn’t hosted any international cricket tournaments for over 2 years.
Mulpani will fill that void and Nepal can once more bargain for hosting regional tournaments. With tremendous support for the game and ever growing appetite for cricket, one can expect Nepal to easily get hosting rights of most Asian Associate/Affiliate tournaments – including perhaps the first edition of ICC’s Asian T20 Premier League. Tournaments like these will not just popularize cricket in the country but also draw broadcasters and sponsors to make cricket and lives of cricketers financially more feasible.
WCL Division 2
Hosting events like these will also help make a case for hosting global tournaments like World Cricket League. And it’s particularly important Nepal fail to finish in top four of WCLC. The bottom four teams of WCLC then feature in WCL Division 2 with top 2 teams qualifying for WCQ.
In such situation getting to host WCL Division 2 will give Nepal obvious advantage over the other teams. The frenzy support of 30,000+ fans and strength drawn from the comfort of the home environment might be that extra push that gets Nepal the big break.