In a new experiment for everyone involved, Team WicketNepal sat to discuss about what should be the playing XI for the Nepali national team against the Netherlands in its upcoming World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) fixtures. Moving from a more measured approach of highlighting what could happen to distinctly pointing out what should happen was a tough ask but with 8 of us involved, we feel we have come up with the best possible XI. It didn’t turn out to be an easy task as everyone had a thought or two. There were even voting for certain positions as this article will later on elaborate about. So, here we have the WicketNepal verdict for the playing XI.
Openers: – Gyanendra Malla and Anil Mandal
While we sat down for the discussions, few of us thought someone else will bring up the name of young Sunil Dhamala but it was not to be. Considering the magnitude of the tour and experience in the conditions, we all made a unanimous decision to have Malla and Mandal as openers. Malla has an immaculate ability to pierce the gap in the Powerplay overs, something which is not so common among Nepali batsmen. Mandal, on the other hand, is known as someone who can ware down the opening bowlers by his leaves and subtle running. We feel this combination is as good as it can get for Nepal at the moment.
No. 3 and 4:- Sharad Vesawkar and Paras Khadka
Once again, it was a 8 out of 8 consensus for both the players for these positions. The second and third highest run getter of the WCLC, this pair is pretty much the fulcrum of Nepali batting. If we are to recall Nepali victories in last 2-3 years, it either had a Khadka blitz or a Vesawkar finish or both. Vesawkar at no.3 has provided a much needed solidity to Nepali batting lineup in last ever since the team management decided to make the move. Hardly anything needs to be said about Khadka, be it his controlled aggression in batting or his seam-ups and off-spinners as and when needed, he gives the ultimate balance a team needs.
No. 5,6 and & 7 :- Raju Rijal, Binod Bhandari and Sagar Pun
Much of our discussions and arguments hovered around these positions. Each one of us had a different idea as to what exactly provides the best balance for the team. Many of us pushed for a 5 bowler strategy so we could accommodate 3 fast bowlers and 1 of us went as far as saying we should actually play 3 specialist spinners. Raju Rijal and Binod Bhandari were relatively easier picks with both receiving 8 out of 9 votes. The argument that Bhandari could keep wickets was quickly dismissed as Rijal got the nod for the position. After much confrontation and voting, we reached the conclusion that Pun should be played as an all-rounder at no.7 leaving only 4 specialist bowlers. Pun received 5 out for 8 votes, lowest for anyone who ended up being in the playing XI just one vote more than the highest among excluded ones.
Spinners:- Basant Regmi and Sandeep Lamichhane
This is exactly where we realized how tough a job selectors have. We had to make a decision whether to leave out an absolute legend of the country’s cricket history or an exciting youngster. We were distinctly divided on our arguments – with either side pushing for their agenda. The argument that 3 spinners should play, as that is exactly where our strength lies, was also considered thoroughly and as everything went for a vote, Sanddep Lamichhane received 6 votes against Gauchan’s 3. With 5 takers for Pun, Shakti’s presence as 3rd spinner was also rejected. Basant Regmi was an unanimous choice to lead the spin attack.
Seamers:- Sompal Kami and Bikram Sob
Sompal Kami was a consensus choice among each one of us. However, his batting position was thoroughly discussed. Each one of us who were pushing for a 5 bowler strategy had him at no.7. Some of us were even of the opinion that he should bat as high as 6 or 7. As we went for a 4 bowler strategy, it was obvious for us to place him as seamer, Yet if the situation arises, he should be batting higher up the position as he a touch of flair and finesse in his batting. Bikram Sob emerged as the choice to partner Kami as he won the vote 7-4 against Karan KC.
Flexibility and Balance
Once we were done with the initial selection and voting, we again held a small round of discussion to see if there are any loopholes and if we could actually plug them out. The team we chose had 4 specialist bowlers and 2 all-rounders, 3 seaming and 4 spinning option and could bat deep down the order. We were pretty much satisfied with the balance of the XI. We finally wrapped up everything with broad smiles on our faces as we felt as if we did something great. Have to say, it was a good couple of hours discussing and coming to a coclusion.
Final Votes :-
8/8 – Malla, Mandal, Vesawkar, Khadka, Kami and Regmi
7/8 – Rijal, Bhandari, Sob
6/8 – Lamichhane
5/8 – Pun
4/8 – KC
3/8 – Gauchan
1/8 – Pulami
0/8 – Dhamala