Nepal face moment of truth
- ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers
Mar 4, 2018-Nepal will go through a reality check in their first ever clash against a Test playing nation when they meet hosts Zimbabwe in a Group ‘B’ opener of the ICC World Cup Qualifiers at the Queens Sports Club in Bulawayo on Sunday.
The Qualifiers is the biggest tournament Nepal are going to play in their cricket history. The three-week long event can be termed second tier to the World Cup as the tournament is being participated in by four Test playing nations and a bunch of
heavyweights among Associate teams.
Nepal can take all the pride to get ranked among the non-Test playing heavyweights before going through an acid test in Zimbabwe. But with a lot of things at stake, the Qualifiers will be a moment of truth for them.
While only the top two teams from the 10-nation Qualifiers will book the ticket to next year’s World Cup in England, the three highest-ranked Associate teams apart from the Netherlands will get the one-day international status for the next three years. Also on the offer will be a four-day Inter-Continental Cup (ICup) and World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) which will be played between the elites of non-Test playing teams.
Nepal had a roller coaster ride to the Qualifiers as despite finishing first in the league stage of Division 2 in Namibia, they needed last-ball heroes in three out of five games. For a country surviving without the game’s administration, cricket’s domestic set up and proper infrastructure, getting ranked as three best Associates will be a big boon for Nepal. National team skipper Paras Khadka, however, would like to calm nerves and set modest target.
“Our first target is reaching the Super Six. Obviously World Cup is the ultimate goal for every team but we want to set targets step by step. Once we make into the Super Six from the group stage, it depends how much point you carry and who qualifies from your group. If you look at these permutation and combination, our first focus has to be the group stage,” Khadka told the Post.
Nepal’s Group ‘B’ also consists of Test cricket’s newbies Afghanistan along with fellow Associates Scotland and Hong Kong. Nepal must round up inside the top three to make it into the Super Six from where two teams will qualify for the World Cup. It leaves Nepal with a herculean task to register at least two victories in the pool. Khadka wants his boys to devour this chance of rubbing shoulders against big teams.
“Its a great opportunity for us going into this tournament. I am sure there are pressure on bigger teams to perform. There is pressure on us as well because of the fan following and the environment that has been created. Everyone wants us to win,” the skipper added. “But more than the pressure, I think this is a very big opportunity for us. We are playing against two Test playing nations in group stage which doesn’t happen very often.”
Nepal’s only experience of playing against Zimbabwe is during the U-19 World Cups. They had beaten the young team of now a sliding Test side in the Plate Quarter-finals of the 2008 ICC U-19 World Cup. Zimbabwe had their pre-tournament preparations with a five-match series against Afghanistan at the United Arab Emirates and went on to lose 4-1. Khadka was well aware of how Zimbabwe fared in that series.
“They struggled against spin when they played Afghanistan. We have clues that they might struggle. If we manage to get our ‘A’ game, we can give them a good fight,” the Nepali skipper believed.
The Nepali squad will once again rely heavily on their spin attack formed on a back of Indian Premier League-bound leg break googly bowler Sandeep Lamichhane and veteran left arm spinner Basanta Regmi. The only concern for Nepal will be its top order, particularly opener Gyanendra Malla, who managed just 79 runs from six games in Namibia.
Nepal will have an experienced batting line up of Zimbabwe to deal with including the returning duo of Brendan Taylor and Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Sean Williams, Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza. Taylor, one of the most consistent batsmen in 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, had slammed a century against the Afghans in the only match that the Zimbabweans won.
Paras Khadka (capt), Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Lalit Singh Bhandari, Shakti Gauchan, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Gyanendra Malla, Dilip Nath (wk), Rohit Kumar Paudel, Lalit Rajbanshi, Basant Regmi, Anil Sah, Sompal Kami, Sharad Vesawkar
Graeme Cremer (capt), Tendai Chatara, Tendai Chisoro, Craig Ervine, Kyle Jarvis, Hamilton Masakadza, Solomon Mire, Peter Moor, Blessing Muzarabani, Sikandar Raza, Brendan Taylor (wk), Brian Vitori, Malcolm Waller, Sean Williams, Cephas Zhuwao
March 4 vs Zimbabwe
March 8 vs Scotland
March 10 vs Afghanistan
March 12 vs Hong Kong
Published: 04-03-2018 09:05