KATHMANDU, Jan 31: When Nepal Under-19 national cricket team takes on UAE on Tuesday at AIT in Thailand, the team will be hoping to continue the glorious history in the ACC U-19 Elite Cup.
The regional age-group tournament, coupled with dark-horse performances in the five Youth World Cups (YWCs), is the most important event to bring Nepali cricket into limelight and Nepal´s cricketing prestige lies, in one way or the other, on the performances of the U-19 teams.
Nepal is the four-time winners, one-time finalists and two-time semifinalists of the event since it began in 1997. As the finalists and winners, Nepal have qualified to five YWCs where they have defeated Test nations repeatedly.
The biggest heartbreak of the team was in 2009 when they missed the final for the first time since 1999 losing to Afghanistan in the semifinals — and a chance to qualify for the YWC for sixth time.
In Thailand, Nepal´s biggest challenge will be to reach the final to qualify for the YWC qualifying event and to keep alive the hopes and prestige.
In its very first participating in 1997 in Hong Kong, when the event was called Youth Asia Cup, Nepal defeated Malaysia and Thailand before losing to Bangladesh, Papua New Guinea and twice to Hong Kong.
In 1999, Nepal however improved a lot to defeat Thailand in the league and Malaysia by a run in semifinals in rain-hit event to qualify for the final. Bangladesh defeated Nepal in the final but both finalists qualified for the 2000 YWC in Sri Lanka.
Nepal hosted the 2001 event, and it marked a new beginning of cricket. Under newly arrived Roy Dias, Nepal remained unbeaten in the event to win the first ever cricket title. Binod Das´ team beat Oman, Singapore, Maldives and UAE.
Pakistan hosted the 2003 Youth Asia Cup, and once again it was Nepal´s unbeaten run to the title under Shakti Gauchan´s captaincy. Nepal beat Malaysia in the final. Earlier they had beaten Singapore, UAE, Qatar and Maldives.
The Youth Asia Cup, now as ACC U-19 Cup, came back to Nepal in 2005 with the same results – Nepal beating Malaysia in the final for third time in a row. Kuwait and Singapore were beaten by Nepal in semifinal and quarterfinals respectively. Kaniska Chaugai´s team also beat Brunei and Bahrain in the league round.
Malaysia hosted 2007 event with two hopes — first winning the trophy using home ground advantage and practicing for the Youth World Cup to which they were qualified as the hosts. They didn´t even reach the final as Nepal and Afghanistan were the top two teams with Nepal winning the title with 48-run victory. Malaysia lost to Nepal in the semifinals while Oman, UAE and Singapore were beaten in league round.
Nepal in ACC U-19
Total Events: 7 (every two years since 1997)
Results: Winners (2001, 03, 05, 07), Runners-up (1999), Semifinalist (1997, 2009)
Total Matches: 36
Results: 24 wins, 7 losses, 5 no-results
Most successful Batsman: Kaniskha Chaugai, 486 runs (14 matches)
Centuries: Kaniskha Chaugai (125), Shakti Gauchan (100)
Most successful Bowler: Amrit Bhattarai, 23 wickets (16 matches)
5-wicket hauls: Lakpa Lama (5/20, 5/32), Paras Khadka (5/21), Manjeet Shrestha (5/28), Bantu Bataju (5/29)
News Source: Republica