By Sushil Thapa, Fairfax, VA
Cricket is rapidly climbing the popularity chart in Nepal. Arguably the second most popular team event behind football that is widely played in every nook and cranny. The presence of a huge fan base across the country boggles my mind.
Cricket aficionados’ enthusiasm and passion is at an all -time high. The game continues to grow strictly in terms of popularity despite the sorry state.
Driven by their love of cricket and dream to represent the country an increasing number of youngsters (both sexes) are playing the game.
Speaking of talent, we have plenty in our ranks, and the upcoming aspirants have demonstrated their ability to perform high quality cricket in international competitions for years.
The junior teams, especially have been front and center for their stellar performances and earned accolades from cricket observers across the globe. The same cannot be said about the senior national team that has under – performed and struggled for consistency.
2011 was another dismal year for the seniors. They were in action in a couple of Twenty20 competitions but failed to achieve anything of significance. In the 1st SAARC championship held in Male, Maldives they failed to reach the last four despite a victory over India.
The ACC Cup played in Kathmandu was a huge setback for us. Not only did the team squandered a glorious chance to win the tournament but finished a very disappointing fourth. As such, there is no excuse for the bad showing.
We played poorly, pure and simple. It was, obvious that in both competitions the team was dogged by inconsistency and frail batting. The new Sri Lankan coach Pubudu Dassanayake who replaced country man Roy Dias has a real challenge on his hands.
We will have to wait and see how he prepares the team for the ICC Twenty20 Global qualifiers and Division Four of World Cricket League taking place in 2012.
The shining light for Nepali cricket has been the Under-19 team .2011 was a rollercoaster year for the young Turks. They qualified to the ICC Under-19 World Cup taking place later this year in Queensland, Australia.
The youngsters dished out a superb gutsy performance to finish second behind Ireland. It is hoped that they keep their good work in Australia against Australia, England and Ireland. Prior to this , they play in the first ever U-19 Asia Cup.
Despite unprecedented popularity, cricket is far from developed in terms of infrastructure and professionalism. Whatever facilities exist is negligible and inadequate in which a development is not feasible for cricket sustenance. To add, there is lack of playing opportunities and sponsorship .
There is no political will , adequate and sustainable funding on part of the government. To make matters worse, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) has failed to live up to its promises and continues to be politicalized.
A glaring example of this is the change of guard at CAN . Mr. Tanka Anbuhang, another political appointee who replaced Binaya Raj Pandey as the new president of CAN. He was elected unopposed recently, thus making a mockery of the much talked about election.
Understandably, the election was more or less a farce, and as usual it was/is more politics than anything. With so much to be done and achieved , I will not be surprised if Mr Anbuhang , a non -cricketing person ends up with a whimper.
I hope Mr Anbuhang and his team proves a skeptic like me wrong. I have seen CAN under the leadership of two well known names of Nepali cricket in the likes of Jay Kumar Shah and Binaya Raj Pandey .
The two controlled cricket association for several decades and considering their position, clout and connection then (especially during the Panchayat era) they could and should have done a whole lot more, which unfortunately did not happen.
When Mr Pandey took over the baton from Shah expectations peaked based on his experience, expertise, knowledge and vision. Though he did a few positive things here and there, however, he did not live up to his words.
To succeed the newly elected cricket body must display commitment to the principles they serve, coupled with honesty and accountability. And more importantly, they have to rise above petty interests and work for the cause to the best of their ability.
Otherwise, cricket development will stagnant further, and cricketers will continue to wrestle with their plight.