Before Nepal won the Division 3, twice, before Nepal won the Division 4, before Nepal played the World T20, before Sompal Kami arrived, it was U19 cricket which brought glory to Nepal in world cricket. Any substantial recognition, applaud or achievement, Nepal bestowed in international stage, it were junior Nepalese who made us proud. The charm has lost somewhere in recent years. In a more serious note, U19 Cricket is the biggest headache for Nepal right now with increasing administrative deficiency, limited selection criteria and lack of proper opportunities to perform leading into a drought of talents and failures at the level we flourished before.
However, in all inadequacies the show must go on. So, is the new announced squad full of 14 fresh faces. Given that the 5 players who played in U19 Asia Cup earlier this year is the only big tournament experience they had. They will start all over again with a new set of players.
The full squad with their U19 National tournament statistics:
DhangadhiRaju Rijal (90 runs in 4 innings, 4 catches and 4 stumpings) Sunil Dhamala (52 runs in 4 innings, 6 wickets in 4 matches) Dipendra Airee (5 wickets and 62 runs in 4 innings) Arjun Chapagain (12 wickets in 4 matches) BhairahawaSaurav Khanal (122 runs in 4 innings & 5 wickets) Sandeep Sunar (106 runs in 4 innings Shankar Rana (108 runs in 4 innings)
PokharaSushil Kandel (12 wickets in 5 matches) Dipesh Shrestha (5 wickets in 5 matches) BirgunjAarif Sheikh (Didn’t play a single match) Irshad Ahmad( 7 wickets in 3 matches) KathmanduAshish Dhami (82 runs in 3 innings)
Sunil Dhamala batting for Dhangadhi
The batting of the team is likely to depend on Skipper Raju Rijal, the wicket-keeper right handed batsman from Dhangadhi who learned his cricket in Mumbai. Aarif Sheikh, the right handed batting allrounder from Birgunj, is drafted in from the senior squad for providing much needed experience and solidarity in junior camp. He featured for Nepal in tournament winning Division 3 campaign. The right handed batting duo from Bahairahawa, Sandeep Sunar & Shankar Rana also Kathmandu’s only representative left handed Ashish Dhami are other specialist batsmen in the squad. More so, the batting will depend on this 5 guys as they impressed in U19 National Tournament held last month.
Strength: Aarif Sheikh’s inclusion has changed the face of the batting lineup. His experience, talent and competency will remain the encouraging and inspiring factor for the rest of the squad and batters especially. The left handed Ashish Dhami can surprise on his day with fluency of his batting, a natural dasher and accumulater of runs. Classical Raju Rijal and effective Shankar Rana remains the interesting picks.
Weakness: Apart from 5, there is not much batting left in the side. The allrounders down the order are inconsistent, and major part of the squad looks bits and pieces cricketers who has done better with bowl rather than bat. That includes player like, Prem Tamang, Sunil Dhamala and Dipendra Airee.
Yogendra Karki batting for Baitadi
There is a old saying in Nepal, “Any cricketer in Nepal is a all-rounder”. And that fits here too, with peoples talking about Sunil Dhamala’s effective spin bowling, Sunar’s leg spin, Prem Tamang’s right hand batting and Saurav Khanal’s bit of both makes the think tank to assess for an ideal combination in league matches. However, in my experience, from what I observed in U19 Nationals, only genuine all-rounder that Nepal have in this team is right handed batsman and medium fast bowler Yogendra Karki. He can bat or bowl Nepal to a victory on his day.
Strength: Options galore. Prem Tamang’s batting should be consider as bonus, without applying much pressure he should be asked to completely concentrate on his attacking off spin bowling, not many in Nepal can do that after Basant Regmi. Similarly, Aarif Sheikh’s more than good enough medium pace bowling should come handy to Nepal’s cause to go with Saurav Khanal’s late order blazes and supportive medium pace bowling as a first change bowler. With Yogendra and Sunil Dhamala, this team has more than enough to cover the 50 overs with back up options if Plan A goes wrong.
Weakness: Lack of specialists. Yogendra Karki only qualifies as a genuine all-rounder in this team. Aarif Sheikh hasn’t bowled for a long time in a competitive match. Prem and Sunil has not produced what they are actually capable of with the bat.
Dhangadhi’s Arjun Chapagain in his bowling strive
Raw fast bowler Arjun Chapagain and accurate left arm spin bowler Sushil Kandel will have to do the most of work with the ball for Nepal to claim any chance in the premier league to be held in Kuwait. Arjun is set to partner Dipesh Shrestha for the opening spell. Spin bowling all-rounder Dipendra Airee will have work to do in the chances he gets.
Strength: Nepal’s ultimate strength over the years in all the triumphs. Bowling, once again will remain the pivotal to Nepal chances for advancement in the League. Arjun’s out and out fast pace bowling should come handy if he can break into the opposition’s top orders. Aarif Sheikh and Yogendra Karki’s bowling should be the glaring factor for Nepal to do well. However, trump card for Nepal remains the spin bowling trio of Sushil Kandel, Prem Tamang and Dipendra Airee.
Weakness: Limited options. Apart from Arjun, Sushil and Dipesh, the rest of bowling will be done by the all-rounders, bits and pieces players Nepal has in their squad. Players like Arjun and Saurav can go for extra runs which will be a concerning factor for the coach and the captain.
Raju Rijal vs Baitadi, U19 National, 2014
It is going to be a headache for captain as most players has been inconsistent with their performances with both bat or bowl. For me, I want to go with the opening batting of A Dhami and Sunil Dhamala. The left and right hand combination should work on our favour as we don’t have much options with left hand players hence Ashish walks into the team for the first match. Followed by Aarif at 3 and Raju Rijal to bat at no.4. Shankar Rana to bat at no. 5 for the astute technique he possess and followed by flurry of all-rounders lead by Yogendra Karki at 6. Prem Tamang at 7, Saurav Khanal at 8, and three specialist bowlers in Arjun, Dipesh and Sushil. Sandeep, Dipendra and Irshad to sit out of the first game.
1.Ashish Dhami (Left hand batsman) 2.Sunil Dhamala (Right hand batsman, right arm off spin bowler) 3.Aarif Shiekh (Right hand batsman, right arm medium pace) 4.Raju Rijal (Right hand batsman, wicket-keeper) 5.Shankar Rana (Right hand batsman) 6.Yogendra Karki (Right hand batsman, right arm medium fast) 7.Prem Tamang (off break bowler, right hand batsman) 8.Saurav Khanal (right arm medium fast, right hand batsman) 9.Sushil Kandel (left arm spin) 10.Arjun Chapagain (right arm fast medium) 11.Dipesh Shrestha (right arm medium fast)
This way, Nepal will have options with both bat and bowl. Based on their performance in U19 National, Nepal have 8 options with ball, 3 spin and 5 seam bowlers. Basically, spin is Nepal’s strong point, hence we can include Dipendra Airee for Saurav Khanal and add that extra spinner in the armor. And Dipendra offers lusty blows as well at the end of the overs.
It as well known fact that the hour is darkest just before the dawn. We hope the inefficiencies of Nepal in last couple of years is that dark period before we witness a dawn of a new future.