Lack of multi-day competitions will be a major hindrance when Nepal takes part in ICC Intercontinental Cup matches across 4- days. ICC’s flagship First-class status competition for Associate countries provides the opportunity for Associate players to play red-ball cricket as opposed to the regular white-ball cricket, that their players are mostly content with playing throughout the year. Nepal’s case is not so different.
Prior to securing ODI status in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers, there has been an uproar in the terms of private T20 leagues being held in the country in the absence of a National Cricket Board, as Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) remains suspended until it’s final hearing in the upcoming ICC Annual General meeting in June 2018. There hardly has been a 50-overs uniform structure in place ever since the suspension of CAN and it has been a major reason for lack of development among younger generation of players in Nepal.
What these T20 leagues has done is that they have bought forward some youngsters, who have been in the limelight since the start of ICC WCL Division 2 till their campaign ended in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers. Ask any young cricketer across the world, and their first ambition would be to play Test cricket for their country in front of their supporters. Not something which Nepal will get to see soon in the next 4-6 years, a starting minimum.
Not that they have not performed beyond their ages in crucial fixtures in ICC WCL Division 2 and World Cup Qualifiers. The likes of Rohit Paudel, Karan KC, Dipendra Singh Airee and Sandeep Lamichhane have brought fresh energy in the team and it shows on the field as well. They are the next line-up of national players who will represent the country in the next 8-10 years and it’s imperative that they get chance to play red-ball cricket to take their own game to the next level.
So, the next best thing for the Nepal youngsters in the National squad would be to get the opportunity to play ICC Intercontinental Cup matches against fellow Associate countries. The experience will be vital for the growth and development of the game in Nepal’s cricketing culture, which has been exposed to a heavy dose of T20 cricket (of late, for obvious reasons). The question will remain as to when will Nepal start competing well enough to play good cricket across 4-days and 12 sessions and start winning matches?? It would be great if they could taste success as and when they start but it foresight, it looks unlikely.
Nepal’s players inexperience has been showing mainly in the batting department, where it has been a challenge for the batsmen to play out longer period of times or sessions and grind their way to bigger individual scores. And another aspect is to rotate the strike, a trait which has been missing in their game for a long time now. 4-day matches will provide these very opportunities and Nepal players will need to grasp every chance that come along their way to improve on both the aspects of their game and ensure consistent bigger team totals to defend/chase and give their bowlers that much more opportunity to put pressure on the opposition batting line-up to win matches on a regular basis.
The opening partnership is one of the big worries for Nepal’s national squad and one that needs to be addressed very quickly as and when they get their chance to play Intercontinental Cup. Nepal have shown the tendency of being slow starters in competitions but come along very well during the later half of the tournaments to make remarkable comebacks to stun both their opponents and the audiences. Predicting the same pattern in the Intercontinental Cup as well in the beginning. It will take them few matches to start putting in more consistent performances in the traditional longer format aspect of the game.
It’s the bowling department which has been the back-bone for the squad in the past couple of seasons and the onus will be upon them once again in the red-ball format of the game to provide their batters to gain any sort of advantage over their opponents. After all, you need to take 20 wickets and score enough runs to defend to win more red-ball matches.
For players to do that and to start their development at home conditions, there needs to be 50-overs and 2/3 days games in place for the players to get exposure of. If the basics can be worked upon before they step into the unknown, it will help Nepal Cricket in a big way and will bring more joy to the passionate Nepal cricket followers and fans.