In next 5 years, Nepal will be top Associate nation in cricket

In next 5 years, Nepal will be top Associate nation in cricket

Feb 23, 2015-

Nepal’s national cricket team has been on a fast upward trajectory since 2010, when it was languishing in Division 5, the bottom of the world cricketing ladder. Since then, it has steadily progressed, climbing to Division 2 and even playing in the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh last year. Last week, Team Nepal deservedly received the first-ever Kantipur Icon award. But all has not been well. There have been frequent conflicts between the national team and its coach and the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), the national governing body. Late last year, CAN brought in a new Chief Executive Officer—Bhawana Ghimire, a young professional with experience at a sports management company in Bahrain where she handled the acquisition and balance sheets of a number of major professional football clubs. Pranaya SJB Rana spoke to Ghimire about tensions between CAN and the national team, her plans for the governing body, and the prospects of Nepali cricket.  

The Nepali cricket has come far in a very short time. What do you think accounts for this meteoric rise?

The hard work of the players combined with right coaching. Although off-the-field support was somewhat lacking, the players’ determination and motivation brought them far. Of course, CAN has its shortcomings as an association. It wasn’t able to support the team in the same way that teams in other countries are supported, as we lack resources. But despite this, the players and the coach have managed to succeed.

In the past, there has been significant tension between the players and CAN. Players even resorted to a strike last year in protest. How would you respond to criticism about CAN’s management?

An association like CAN needs professionalism and must follow a certain organisational structure, but CAN was being run in an ad-hoc manner. Professionals were absent from the management structure and the pace of work was not aligned with certain goals. CAN members perhaps gave it their best but there was a failure to approach things collectively and a significant communication gap. CAN requires management that will execute the Board’s vision but the previous management was not empowered. Now, we have become a point of contact for the players so they will not have to reach out directly to the Board. There was also a significant lack of accountability and transparency.

There was also some tension between CAN and coach Pudubu Dassanayeke.

It was perhaps a case of too many heads. It is difficult to please everyone when they are all acting independently. The distance between the coach and CAN was increasing and again, this was due to a lack of proper communication channels. The coach has done an excellent job in leading the players. It is not a good thing to change coaches frequently as all of the coach’s environmental adaptation will go to waste. As a coach, you need to understand the calibre of each of your players and then tap effectively into those capacities.

Recently, there have been reports of irregularities at CAN, which are being investigated by the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Do you see corruption as a significant problem within CAN?

Before I arrived, auditing was a slow process. We need proper accounting practices and must ensure due diligence, reporting, and documentation. So it wasn’t exactly corruption; we were just not following proper accounting practices. We were neither paying nor collecting dues. We hadn’t even registered a Permanent Account Number, which we now have. I am proposing that we put up our quarterly reports on our website and conduct half-yearly auditing through a reputed auditing company. Since my appointment, I have drafted a model organisational structure and presented it to the Board. I have outlined the need for positions like finance manager, ticket operation manager, media and marketing manager, like with other international associations. I would also suggest drawing members for our advisory body from the Finance Ministry, the Planning Commission and maybe even members from one of the four top cricket playing countries that are our neighbours. Our primary concern at CAN is management enhancement. We have lots of resources in this country—human resources are readily available, there is interest and talent, our players are very good, and we have a level three coach. If proper management is present, in the next five years, we will be the top Associate nation in cricket.

Another criticism of CAN has been that officials lack in-depth knowledge of the game. How important do you think knowledge of the game is for management?

At the managerial level, the cricket operations manager, who is in charge of developing cricket, should have knowledge and love for the game. But for events, media, and marketing, I don’t see in-depth knowledge as a requirement. But the Board must be passionate about the game as it is the body that lays out the direction for national cricket. Once you are in the management body, the focus must be the game, not personal or political interests. Personally speaking, I love cricket.

On a different note, Nepal is surrounded by four giants of world cricket—India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. But we have not been able to take advantage of this proximity. Do you plan to change that?

Ever since I came to CAN, I have been trying to tap into this. I have proposed that we associate with India and play in the Duleep Trophy and maybe even other state-level tournaments. We have been looking for the right channel to approach the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) for a few years and now, we are going through the Indian Embassy. Within a week, we will submit a plan document to the Embassy. With Bangladesh, we have been playing age-group matches and they are also helping us indirectly with logistics and documentation. But I am working on developing an official, more sustainable relationship with Bangladesh. We are also looking for more exchange matches and club tournaments.

Speaking more domestically, our current team has great players but we will need to develop more strength on the bench. For that, we require more domestic leagues to seek talent. Any progress on this front?

We need to work on a bottom-up approach, from the district level itself. CAN also needs to start accreditation programmes for clubs and start a club league. We plan to start club accreditation from the next season. We need to build academies and fund school cricket on a larger scale, perhaps by partnering with school associations like PABSON and NPABSON. We can seek talent at the district-level and bring them to the centre for training and maybe even send them abroad on scholarship programmes. In the coming week or two, we will also announce a national Twenty20 tournament. We also need substantial funding from the private sector if we are to launch new tournaments. The government could help by exempting private investments into national cricket from tax. This will motivate investors to put more money into cricket.

What is the current level of governmental and private support for national cricket?

The government is taking interest but it must prioritise cricket in its national plans and policies. They need to do the same thing that they have done for tourism. This is in terms of facilities, infrastructure, and players’ development. If the government prioritises cricket for the next five years, we will see great returns in terms of revenue from tournaments and a huge fan base. The private sector is supporting us but if it invests more freely in cricket, we will only develop more. They will also get much more mileage out of their investments.

The bottlenecks for national cricket seem to be a financial resource crunch and a lack of infrastructure.

Yes, our plans to develop Nepali cricket are definitely limited by a lack of financial resources and facilities. We need a regular cash flow as finances are key to management. We cannot simply run on funding from the International Cricket Council. The more investment we make, the more returns we will get. Currently, we have managed to place only 22 players on contract. We want to run talent hunts at the local level but we don’t have the resources to do so. The infrastructure is also greatly lacking. We only have one ground at Tribhuvan University and that too is packed throughout the year. A stadium is being built at Mulpani but we don’t know how many more years it will take to be complete. It is also not enough to simply build infrastructure at the centre. At the local level, there must be concrete pitches to play on and tournaments to compete in. We also need to boost the 22 players who will be competing in the WCL. Perhaps we can take them to play in India and get international exposure ourselves. We need to develop two teams, one current and one bench-sitting, whom we could send to other countries to gain exposure and train. Then, at least we’ll have a back-up squad. Players need insurance and they need physical and psychological support on an international level.

On a final note, where do you see Nepali cricket in the next five years?

In the World Cup. But for that, we immediately need a talent run to develop a 20-member bench that is first class. If we are able to tap into the local enthusiasm, groom new players and facilitate current players to get more international exposure, I see no reason why we shouldn’t be playing in the World Cup in 2019.

Published: 23-02-2015 07:36

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