One of the unmistakable signs of a maturing cricket team is consistency in its batting. Arguably, it is easier to master the arts of bowling and fielding compared to batting, as is evident in the repeated failure of emerging cricketing nations to put up decent scores even while their bowling and fielding forms are top notch. But for a team aspiring to make its mark in the international arena, only playing consistently at the top level will do; especially to give its batsmen the expertise and confidence to compete at the highest level.
The Nepali cricket team (and its batsmen) finally seems to be nearing that level of expertise and confidence. After all, it is the team’s consistent batting has been instrumental its back-to-back international titles, both away from home, within a month’s time. Nepal’s success at the ICC World Cricket League Division 4, soon followed by the ACC Trophy Elite title, has excited Nepali cricket fans who have long dreamt of seeing their team compete against the best in the game in the 50-over World Cup.
Nepal’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake deserves a pat on the back for the national team’s change in fortunes in recent times. After taking over as coach, he has gotten Nepali players to practice extra hard, regularly putting in four to five hours a day. The reason the team has been at the top of its game of late is Dassanayake’s priority in getting national players to compete regularly at both national and international levels. Many believe the secret of recent success of players like all-rounder Shakti Gauchan and pace bowler Paras Khadka is their international exposure (Gauchan with IPL side Rajasthan Royals and Khadka with professional cricketers in Canada). Dassanayake had made similar arrangements for other players too.
Bowlers have always been Nepal’s strength, and they have given a good measure of themselves in recent tournaments. But for a country whose batsman had scored only three centuries in the last 16 years, to have three of its batsmen score tons within a month is a remarkable achievement. Moreover, Paras Khadka’s man-of-the-series winning performance at the just-concluded ACC Trophy Elite was yet another proof that Nepali players can now stand up to the best in the business. But there are many areas that Nepal will need to improve in if it wishes to consolidate its newfound success at the international level, and climb up to the status of a permanent ODI-playing country, and finally, to the status of a Test-playing nation.
For that, first, it will need better infrastructure. The country has just a single ground that is suitable for international tournaments. The long-delayed work on the second planned venue at Mulpani has to start in earnest. Second, a system has to be developed to get children playing the game at competitive levels at an early age. For long term success the country will also need to build up a young roster of players to replace senior members in the national team. The success of the national cricket team has given the people of the troubled nation a breath of fresh air. They will be hoping for more