Nepali Cricket Team’s only previous experience in New Zealand is ICC U-19 World Cup 2002.
All eyes were on Shakti’s batting then. Many opined that Shakti’s batting would determine Nepal’s fate in 2002 ICC U-19 World Cup. Riding on Shakti’s terrific performance, Nepal had won 2001 ACC Elite Cup in Kathmandu. Shakti had scored a century against Maldives in that tournament becoming only the second cricketer to do so for Nepal in International Cricket, and Nepal boarded for U-19 World Cup in New Zealand.
Nepal defeated test nations Pakistan and Bangladesh in that tournament and also reached the plate finals. However, Shakti’s outing in the tournament was pretty average. He scored 116 runs in 8 matches and remained on fifth spot-behind Bardan Chalise, Kaniska Chaugain, Yaswant Subedi and Binod Das-on the list of highest run getters for Nepal.
Twelve years back when Nepal traveled to New Zealand for the U-19 World Cup, Basanta Regmi was seam bowler and occasional opener. Basanta was especially known for his in-swingers. He got only one match in the tournament.
Basanta and Shakti are the only two players from the that U-19 team in the current squad which is in New Zealand for the ICC CWCQ. No other players can understand the challenges of Kiwis condition better than this duo.
Grassy pitch and seaming tracks of New Zealand are tough challenges not just for Nepali players but for batsman from all associate countries. The first day of practice matches has already reflected that. Nepal lost to Namibia by 4 runs chasing modest 233 in the first practice match. Given only four fielders are allowed outside the 30 yard circle, 233 was a below par target. Other matches offered similar results- Canada defeated second seed Netherlands by 41 runs posting only 212. PNG posted just 175. Hong Kong made below par 242 runs and Kenya chasing that were restricted for 240.
Knowing how vital it is to acclimatize to Kiwi condition, Nepal had reached New Zealand two weeks prior to the tournament. “If players cannot adapt, it’s not just batting that’s tough but even seam bowlers will find the seam friendly pitch equally challenging” , expressed Binod Das. Das had lead the U-19 squad in 2002. Under Das’s leadership, Nepal had reached the plate finals of the world cup winning 6 matches in a row.
“U-19 World Cup was in the same season-its dry there now. The ball moves off the turf but except that it is challenging for the seamers. The ball won’t do much in the air or off the seam. As a bowler you have to adapt to this and bowl accordingly-you need to know exactly where to pitch”, Das shares his experience. Binod had a fairly successful tournament then and ended with 11 wickets up his sleeve. The other seamers Manjeet Shrestha (5 wicket in 8 matches) and Pramod (1 wicket in 6 matches) did not impress.
Das also expressed that spin bowlers could be quite handful in Kiwi conditions. He added the early wickets with the new ball would be ideal start for the team.
Coach Pubudu on the other hand opines that Nepal needs to work on the basics. “They are not familiar with conditions where the ball moves around appreciably and where the batsmen have to counter swing and seam by playing late and leaving a lot early on. So batters need to work extra hard at that”, Dassanayeke had told ICC a few days back.
Dassanayeke had expressed the bowlers needed to make the best of the new ball and get it to move around as much as they can.
Vastly experienced-42 year old captain of top seed UAE Khurram Khan has also expressed concerns about the New Zealand’s wicket. He mentioned, “UAE wickets are much different that ones here. We are used to playing at dry pitches. But in New Zealand the ball seams and swings. So playing their usual game would be a challenge for the batters.”
UAE’s coach, former Pakistani Cricket Aqib Javed informed that they had put in extra paces for New Zealand’s wickets. “We have good batting but the players haven’t performed that well in seaming wickets”, said Javed pouring concerns over playing in alien condition.
Although pitches in NZ are not that spinner friendly but Shakti Gauchan and Basata Regmi’s experience could be vital for Nepal in the tournament. Basanta has now turned to spin giving up his previous fetish of seam bowling. Lot of hope resides on this left arm spin duo. Shakti had taken 10 wickets in the ICC U-19 World Cup 12 years back on the same seam friendly tracks.
The given piece was published on Nagarik. This is a translated copy of the writing published after consent from the writer. Binod Pandey blogs here. The Nepali copy of the this piece is available here