KATHMANDU: New faces as well as those players deprived of opportunities received a chance to play in the national tournament as Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) has introduced two regional and two departmental teams.
Region No 7 (Janakpur), Region No 8 (Pokhara), Nepal Police Club and Nepal APF Club were the new teams in the Pepsi Standard Chartered One-day and T20 National Tournament.
APF, which has enrolled some of the best cricketers in the country, has picked nine players from Region No 3 (Kathmandu), including national captain Paras Khadka. Likewise, APF has signed three players from Region No 4 (Bhairahawa) and one each from Region No 1 (Biratnagar) and Region No 2 (Birgunj).
APF coach Raju Basnet said that the signing up of players by APF opened opportunities for new as well as senior players to play for regional teams. “As nine players left Kathmandu team, veterans like Pramod Basnet and Rikesh Lama gained a spot in the team. Not only seniors, junior players also got an opportunity to play,” said Basnet.
“Earlier, it was hard to get a spot in Kathmandu team but securing a place is relatively easier now,” said Basnet and, added, “Within two years new and good players will emerge.”
However, other teams were hard hit by the new signings as they had to part with their experienced players.
Baitadi coach Arjun Khadka said that his team faced a hard time filling the void left by the departure of five of his key players who joined Nepal Police Club. “There departure had left a dearth of experienced players in our team,” said Khadka.
“The players who played the national tournament lacked in experience. They had only played at regional level which was not enough to play at the national tournament,” he added. Bhuwan Karki, Binod Bhandari, Naresh Budhayer, Chandra Saud and Pradeep Airee joined Nepal Police Club for the national tournament.
The Birgunj squad faced a similar problem as Sanjam Regmi, one of its key players, joined APF and captain Binod Das enrolled into Police. Birgunj team played the national tournament without other two players, Avinas Karna and Amit Shrestha, who are busy with their higher secondary level exams. Karna had bagged 10 wickets in a U-19 national match. Birgunj´s manager Pramod Sah said that the boys played well despite the loss of those four players.
“After the senior players left the team two new players were roped in and they performed well,” said Sah. “The exit of experienced players has proved an opportunity for the new players.”
Meanwhile, APF coach Basnet said, “While addition of new teams will help us achieve quantity, more national level tournaments will nurture quality,” said Basnet.
Region No 5 coach Dipedra Pratap Singh said the team lost only one player, and the one who replaced him played well in the tournament. “Despite having national level players our region has not performed well because we have not been able to put the players through training camps.”
Singh said that only two tournaments, One Day and T20, are not enough to produce good players for the national team. “Better cricketers can be produced only if the players get to play more games,” he said.
Dipesh Khatri used to be a bench warmer in Bhairahawa team in the past, but he led Region No 8 Pokhara in the recently concluded national tournaments. “The new teams did not perform well this time but many more opportunities await them in future,” said Khatri.
He, however, has different take on talented players´ joining APF and Police clubs. “Both the teams are crammed with talented players turning many good players into bench-warmers,” he opined.
Khatri´s argument seemed justified when NPC players Faizlur Rahaman, Subash Pradhan, Sunny Pun were seen on the bench during most of the T20 matches and considering the fact that former U-19 skipper Prithu Baskota have been denied chances in the APF team on many occasions.
Nobody can, however, deny that APF and NPC have renewed hope among Nepali cricketers for chasing their dream of playing professional cricket.
ANIL GHIMIRE | MyRepublica