Acid Test Awaits Nepal in ICC T20 World Cup Qualifiers

The recent devastating earthquake that struck Nepal has not broken the morale, confidence and hope of our athletes. In the wake of national tragedy, athletes have displayed tremendous resilience, courage and bravely withstood the pain, agony and suffering.

Even more important, the desire to corner glory for the country impels them to enter the arena of competition, despite adversity. The national cricket team is back in action and rearing to go. They are gearing up to embrace yet another important challenge and faces a tough test, undoubtedly.

Lately they have been literally on their toes preparing for the ICC Twenty/20 World Cup Qualifiers in Ireland and Scotland. They recently concluded a challenging and grueling preparation schedules. Head Coach Pubudu Dassanyake led a whirlwind tour, which began in Dharamshala, Himalachal Pradesh, India and ended in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Prior to the Netherlands, the cricketers played a series of matches in England, as well. The team’s overall performance in tune-up matches left a lot to be desired and has raised eyebrows. They showed plenty of rust and vulnerabilities throughout the tour.

No doubt, it was a useful tour but the tight schedules seem to have taken a toll on players, physically and mentally. I have to say that the three-nation tour lacked proper planning and foresight. Had it been well managed, it could have been a very different story and a desirable outcome.

Indeed, the team’s run of poor form is a big concern for the coach and fans alike. Time is fast running out. They need to get their acts together and mojo back to stand a chance to succeed in the competition. That being said, it is imperative that players regroup, regain shattered confidence stay focused and learn from mistakes before it is too late. I agree that it is easier said than done.

Furthermore, they have to overcome inconsistency, lethargy and take their game to a new height. There is no room for complacency, mistakes and they must apply themselves regardless of the situation.A string of defeats suffered by the team in tune up matches for the qualifiers point to the fact that batting is Team Nepal’s Achilles Heel.

By and large, the batting has been brittle and far from convincing. The bulk of runs have come off the blades of skipper Paras Khadkha, Gyanendra Malla and Sompal Kami for the most part. Players who are in the playing eleven, solely based on their batting strength and prowess have not lived up to their own expectations.

It is high time they correct their mental and technical approach, regain confidence, put in every bit of effort and come out firing on all cylinders. Team Nepal will fancy their chances but it will be tough, if batting falters again. The openers and middle order has been pitiful so far. They must make the most of the ideal batting pitches in Ireland. Over all, they will need enough batting strength to win a majority of the matches.

Pressure is mounting on batsmen to perform to their ability and rise to the occasion. This is yet another chance for them to prove their worth. The bowling department has shown remarkable improvement for sure. The bowlers just need to keep working hard and keep the momentum going.

Fielding is another front that needs big improvement. By his own admission, the coach said the team’s physical preparation is well short of the target. Once again, the onus will be on Khadkha to prove his worth as captain. He has to be innovative and lead by example. Even more so, the key to success is concerted efforts and teamwork.

Team Nepal is virtually unchanged with a few exceptions and is not short on international experience. The last three years has seen the team play excellent cricket and achieve a lot internationally. Making a debut at the 2014 ICC Twenty/20 World Cup in Bangladesh, Nepal created quite a stir by almost reaching the knock out stage. Apart from playing spectacular cricket, they exceeded expectations.

They won the hearts and minds of the fans, and the respect of the international cricket community. Can history repeat itself for Nepal? Time will tell. At stake are six spots in the 18-day competition, featuring 14 teams, starting in a couple of days. The top six finishers join 10 Full Members for the 2016 Twenty/20 World Cup in New Delhi, India.

Nepal is in Group A along side Ireland, Hong Kong, Namibia, Papua New Guinea, USA and Jersey. Although they are in a relatively easy group, they are up against intriguing and unpredictable opponents. They open their campaign against the US and must get off to a winning start. Getting off to a good start is very important, that is crucial.

The larger question is- can Team Nepal get back its groove? I hope so. We will have to wait and see. When everything is said and done, it is all about the team overcoming setbacks and delivering the results at the end of the day.

Good luck Team Nepal. You can do it !

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