Assessment of Nepal’s inconceivable failure in ICC World T20 Qualifiers is a bit of mystery job right now. When things go wrong, you look at the reasons behind it. But when nothing goes right, you simply don’t know where to start and what to assess.
Nepal’s horrible performance can only have one word, and none shall disagree, pathetic. This to realize the mistakes, the management did on The Great European Tour which transformed into The Great European Debacle in a matter of month. Eventually, The Great Nepal Cricket Debacle in history of our sports.
I don’t even remember if we were this submissive ever before.
We had no batsmen, no plans, no tactics, no strategies, no plan A, no plan B, no confidence, no answers and no options at the end of it all.
Writing an article, trying to find the answers is not the happiest of jobs right now. As it seems, if we change all 15 players, they can play no worse than the current set of players. However, it is not practical thing to do. Best is assess, assess more, find the answers, implement and expect the improvements.
Most of it all, staying positive will be the key. Staying optimistic is our way forward with few hard decisions to be made with ‘think tank’ & players set.
Where it all went wrong?
This was the first tournament which Nepal participated with no less than 14 practice matches before it to prepare (Counting Netherlands Series too). Most ever in our standards. We can assume, we messed it all up in a way that we were again ‘hoping’ Subash Khakurel & Sagar Pun to come good in first practice match of the Qualifiers after they failed 12 times before (roughly). Ideally, one should have known if the batters are ridiculously out of touch. We needed to go with the new pair which we did with Mandal in first match of the Qualifiers. If we had tried a combo of Mandal & Airee or Pun & Mandal or Pun & Airee in practice matches, things could have been slight different at top.
With all due respect, if Mandal don’t have ‘It Factor” to make it to T20s, why was he selected in first place for the squad? No one better than team management can understand the form the players are in than themselves.
Why didn’t we select Mahesh Chhetri (Back up opener and back up wicket-keeper) instead of Mandal for a month long tour in alien conditions. He just might have pushed Subash or Bhandari to step up their game. Alas, we will never know.
No doubt, Karan KC is a good bowler, a proven one. But is one tour is sufficient to claim that? If yes, no one but ‘think tank’ knows his natural line & length is short of length. Whereas, we need someone to keep it up, good to full length in European conditions a.k.a Avinash Karn or Jeetendra Mukhiya (barring injuries, not selecting them in squad & XI is no less than baffling). Sompal kept delivering ‘spells of the season’ with no one to support at the other end.
In another world, if we hadn’t had opportunities to play so many games before the tournament, Subash Khakurel and Binod Bhandari (he still did) would have played all the games of the qualifiers. But we had 14 games to assess that. We still went with our tried and tested lineup, with Subash too who was still recalled after Mandal’s twin failures. We were still hoping, blindly, all to come good.We were adamant of change. Whilst, everything kept changing around us. We ignored the back to back failures of duo. It upset our balance. We fell flat. We never recovered from our struggle throughout the tournament barring one Malla fifty in dire circumstances.
Not only batting, in last game, when Sompal just delivered his spell of the career to Jersey’s best batsman Jenner, he was changed next over by Skipper. Sums up our tournament as Sompal was brought back later when it was all over. Sompal couldn’t control delivering wides in agony, maybe, trying more than he could.
As if those deliveries were saying, “I don’t know what to do, I want to do so many things, I want to win for my country, but don’t know how. Somebody help me, guide me, tell me what should I do. How should I do.”
When Sagar Pun was struggling with bat, he was asked to bowl. He did well. But just when he got some runs under his belt, he was deprived of his bowling duties. Not even a single over. One simply doesn’t get confused over his role in the team. Opener? All-rounder? Off-Spinner?
Despite, all the failures with the bat in whole tournament, it was only last match the wonder boy Siddhant Lohani got his chance due to Sagar’s injury. Lohani wouldn’t have been feeling very happy after sacrificing youth, studies & valuable time just for a free tour of Europe till then.
But when he did got chance, he showed confidence, intent, aggression, he tried to make things happen rather than waiting for it. He knew he too is going to perish sooner or later, he knew he is there for a little cameo, he played it like it was last match of his life. One simply don’t take unusual risks to awkwardly shuffle against fast bowlers unless you are Steve Smith or AB de Villiers ( they do when they are well settled, sometimes, straight away). That too playing your first match. Everything that was missing from Nepal in the qualifiers. That instinct to make things happen.
Luck? We kept insisting on seeing the new ball off, in a T20 game, 30 deliveries out of 120 we get. While the whole world is rapidly moving towards the aggressive brand of cricket, we had a plan that goes back to 1970s. Every time the opposition won the toss, we lost the half match there, because we spilled our 14-match chance to prepare for batting first scenarios every time we won toss. We so much rode our luck these whole time, sometimes it just feels, if we always were just lucky. Certainly not. But we never showed any intent to cover our loop hole when we had chance before the ultimate tournament.
The world now knows what to do winning the toss when playing against us. Can our cricketing system survive on the basis of a flip of coin?
An issue of national concern at the moment. Cricket once brought happiness which country had never seen before, now brought it’s share of sadness too. That’s life.
Meanwhile, no players can be accused of not giving there 100 percent for the country but one can’t deny if we were giving it on right note or channel.
By the increase in popularity of cricket, the only thing that rapidly developed is our fan-base. Expectations have increased. Players are regarded as heroes of the nation, and heroes seldom make mistakes. If one does, the load of emotions & expectations is too hard to handle. One can easily crumble under it. The sense of responsibility can always bring best or worst out of you. No much doubts, the blind expectations and uncontrollable emotions has somewhat taken the toll on our players at an extent.
We all, always, talk how inefficient our CAN is, our domestics is, our new crop of young players are but how much have we done to improve it. From Management to CAN to an individual fan, every one should ask a question to themselves,“Have you ever been unbiased for TALENT, like supporting neighbor’s kid if he plays better cricket than your son?”
We had similar, or much worse, debacle in New Zealand too but how much our state of cricket has improved in country from that day to today. Nil. What can be best exemplified that we just had a camp for U19 players without national selection games citing rainy season (which, of course, is roughly 3 months in 12 we have).
We still don’t have ‘a proper ground’ forget stadium.
The most grueling was, our reluctance to change. We were adamant on players who performed well in past but ignored the current form. We were adamant on past glory and combinations still to come good.
Our media, which has always reveled on the heroism of players than facts and truths somehow are responsible too. We never tried to report the real picture to the general spectator and well-wisher but enjoyed the odd sixes and friendly moments in the ground. I expect media to go hard. Ask questions about ‘cricket’ rather than only ‘cricketers’. Ask Coach & Captain what went wrong, strategically. Shed some light on the darkness. One have right to get answers. It is about our nation’s pride & honour. -Where now?
Practically, One-Days against Scotland in 10 days time but the real issue is what to do with the team which has felt flat in all departments barring few bright spots. Hopefully, the change of format might bring change of fortunes, but the emotional baggage of debacle will only hamper our chances against strong in-form young Scottish team on their own backyard. A very important match for our way forward.
Frankly speaking, the first & foremost thing that need to be changed to bring our cricket back on track is, attitude. Rest will fall in place.
Truth is, all the fading hopes of Nepal cricket revival match after match got rejuvenated by one little cameo of 27 runs by débutant Siddhant Lohani. That innings speaks for the positive future.
But who cares?
Not long ago, Aarif Sheikh was bowling so good & there never was doubt on his batting techniques. Where is he now?Need new talents. Surely. But, who is taking care of that.
Sompal hasn’t been picking up wickets as much as he is trying to, bowling his heart out. Maybe, destined to be an all-rounder. But who cares.
Nepal cricket will be back on track but we need to improve/change: CAN-Domestics-Infrastructures-Management-Coaching Staffs-Players, specifically in that order. But..
Everything happens, happens for a good. We should stop chasing false dreams. Time to set up our domestic cricket & groom new set of players. I hope, somebody starts caring.
It is no secret anymore that, before Coach, before Captain, before World T20, before any further international glamor,we need astute domestic cricket. Else, we have no future whatsoever. This is only a tournament. Division drops are not far away. Start caring, now. (First Published in Cricketlok)