MAR 16, 2014 – KATHMANDU, Nepal – In the shortest time in the history of any sporting events, Nepal has won its place to test its strength of playing cricket world cup this year. After 18 years of history of playing cricket in Nepal, Nepalese team has already in the capital of Bangladesh to test their cricket skills and may improve their ranking by defeating some of the mature teams in the events.
All proud Nepalese eyes will be on the Nepali cricket team when they make a historic World Cup debut on Sunday, taking on fellow new comers Hong Kong in an ICC World Cup T20 preliminary group game in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
With only two teams making it to the second round, many feel, it would take nothing short of a miracle for Nepal to make it to the next round. One team from each of the two pools of four teams will advance to meet top eight Test-playing teams in the main draw. Hosts Bangladesh and Afghanistan are other teams in Nepal’s pool. Zimbabwe lead the other preliminary pool.
But that Nepal are even in Bangladesh provides a healthy source of optimism.
While reports coming in from Bangladesh suggest hundreds of Nepalis, especially those pursuing medical studies, are waiting for the stadium gates to open in Chittagong, more excited fans here have their own set of plans to catch Team Nepal live.
“I can’t wait to see Nepal play in the World Cup,” said Anjan Chaudhary, a banker. “We’ve planned to watch the Nepal-Hong Kong match on TV after Holi celebrations at a friend’s place.”
Nepali cricket team’s story began to gain momentum over the past few years, when they quickly climbed up the ranks in the World Cricket League. They graduated from Division V to Division II from 2010 to last year when they became Division III champions. They made it to the World T20 qualifiers after finishing second in the 2013 ACC Twenty20 Cup. In the November qualifiers, they lost to Afghanistan in the semi-finals, but had already qualified for the World T20s after beating Hong Kong in the quarters.
Fans greeted the country’s qualification for the World Cup with much fervour last year, pouring onto the Capital’s streets to greet the team for earning their maiden trip to the World Cup.
“ Cricket has become a part of the culture now,” said another cricket lover Shekhar Vaidya of New Baneshwor. “People can stick together whatever their cultural background or political ideas and feel they’re united.”
Nepal travelled to the UAE for a couple of preparation games. They lost to the Netherlands in the opening friendly but beat the hosts in the next.
Although they lost in both the official warm-up matches in Dhaka to top-ranked Associate nation Ireland and the UAE, team captain Paras Khadka is keen to do more than just to make up the numbers.
“We lost to Ireland in a competitive match. Against the UAE, our total might have looked small but it was a decent one considering the slowness of the pitch,” Khadka said, after the UAE defeat.
“If we carry the brand of cricket we played in the warm-up matches into the tournament, anything is possible.”
Given the format of the game, others say, there are opportunities for any side to come up with an upset result.
“Bangladesh and Afghanistan appear a difficult proposition, but Nepal have a realistic chance of winning against Hong Kong,” Binay Raj Pandey, former president of the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN).