KATHMANDU, Dec 31: Cricket brought home glory in 2012 as Nepali national team lifted the World Cricket League Division 4 and ACC Trophy Elite titles. Nepali U-19 girls completed a title hat-trick in the ACC U-19 Women´s Championship. Despite failures in the ICC U-19 World Cup and ACC Women´s T20 tournament, 2012 was a year that instilled hope.
Nepal emerged as the champion in the World Cricket League Division 4 held in Malaysia in September. It is the Nepali national team´s biggest success so far. Nepal defeated Singapore, Tanzania, Malaysia, the USA and Denmark in the round robin league and beat the USA by eight wickets in the final.
To guide Nepal to the title, Shakti Gauchan bowled a miraculous spell of 10-8-2-3, the best economy in One-Day between the nations, against Malaysia. Subash Khakurel scored 115 runs against the USA in the league round and Anil Mandal blasted 113 runs against Denmark. Spinner Basant Regmi completed two five-wicket hauls in the tournament to finish with 21 wickets in six matches.
Likewise, Nepal shared the ACC Trophy Elite with the host UAE in October. A roller-coaster ride and a last-over drama, nothing could keep Nepal and the UAE from sharing the title. The final match at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium ended in a tie as Nepal reached 241/9 after the completion of 50 overs and the UAE put up 241/6. Nepal had defeated the UAE in the first match of the tournament by four wickets, the first ever victory over UAE at the senior level in One-Day format.
Nepali captain Paras Khadka was awarded player-of-the-series. Khadka was the top scorer of the tournament as he scored 291 runs from five innings of six matches with an average of 72.75. He also claimed nine wickets in the tournament. Nepali spinner Gauchan finished the tournament as the most successful bowler. Gauchan claimed 15 wickets in six matches with an economy of 3.18.
In March, Nepal finished the ICC World T20 Qualifiers held in the UAE in the seventh position among the associate members of the International Cricket Council (ICC). Nepal beat Hong Kong, Denmark, Bermuda, Kenya and Papua New Guinea in the tournament but lost to Afghanistan, the Netherlands and Canada. As the pick of the Nepali bowlers, Gauchan took four wickets including a hat-trick against Denmark to become the first Nepali male bowler to complete a hat-trick in international tournaments.
ESPN CricInfo, a cricket website, named Nepal´s captain Khadka and Gauchan among the Best XI of the World T20 Qualifiers. Khadka scored 254 runs and took seven wickets in the tournament while Gauchan claimed 16 wickets.
National team coach Pubudu Dassanayake was the architect of the phenomenal success as he kept players busy round the year.
He arranged a training session for Gauchan with Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals, sent skipper Khadka to Canada to play professional tournament for Ontario Cricket Club and Academy and arranged places for fast bowlers Chandra Saud and Amrit Bhattarai in the U-23 tournament of Sri Lanka. He arranged a special training for Anil Mandal, Sharad Vesawkar and Gyanendra Malla in India. On the other hand, he engaged national players in training sessions regularly.
Nepali U-16 boys finished runners-up in the ACC U-16 Elite Cup in May as they lost to host Malaysia by one wicket.
Nepal defended the title of ACC U-19 Women´s Championship held in Kuwait in February to complete a title hat-trick. Rubina Chhetri, the team captain, took 13 wickets and scored 71 runs in the tournament. She was adjudged the player of the tournament.
However, the year was not equally good for the Nepali U-19 boys´ team and the senior women´s team.
The U-19 team crashed out from the group stage of the ACC U-19 Asian Cup held in Malaysia in June as mighty India and Pakistan thrashed Nepal. In consolation, Nepal edged past Malaysia by 107 runs in the tournament.
U-19 boys put up a miserable performance during the ICC U-19 World Cup held in Australia in August. Nepal lost its first four matches with Australia, Ireland, England and Sri Lanka but won the play-off matches against Namibia and Papua New Guinea to finish the tournament in the 13th position.
Likewise, Nepali women´s team crashed out of the ACC Women´s T20 Asia Cup held in China in October. The defeat against the mighty Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in the tournament was expected but Nepali women also lost to China.
Nepal participated in the Blind Cricket World Cup held in India in December. Nepal beat Bangladesh in its first match but lost all other matches in the tournament. However, the participation alone could be counted as success of Nepali blind cricket.
In domestic tournaments, Armed Police Force (APF) Club maintained its dominance in 2012. APF won the National One-Day Tournament and National T20 Tournament in December. Likewise, APF won the Indian Ambassador Cup T20, both men´s and women´s gold medals in the Sixth National Games and the Women´s National T20 title.
Janakpur lifted the National Women´s U-19 title in January while the U-16 and U-19 teams from Baitadi won the titles in their respective national level age group tournaments.
Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth Rs 21 million with CG Foods for the U-19 team and started paying salaries to the national team members.
As another positive gesture, CAN offered the role of goodwill ambassador of Nepali cricket to Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni during his Nepal visit in June.
However, incompetence of CAN officials came to light in February as the Asian Cricket Councli slapped a 10 per cent deduction on the capital and development grant for Nepal as CAN failed to submit the financial report within the deadline. ACC provides USD 1.75 million annually as capital and development grant and USD 1.6 million as administrative grant to Nepal.