Sports

Pokhara counts on its majestic ground to give cricket a boost

- ADARSHA DHAKAL, Pokhara

Nov 1, 2018-

The new and majestic cricket ground hosting the ongoing Pokhara Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament in Pokhara has the potential to change the landscape of not only Nepali cricket but also the international cricket, particularly in South Asia.

Located just over five kilometres away from the city’s prominent tourist hub--the lakeside, the lush green turf overlooking the scenic Machhapuchhre, Dhaulagiri and Annapurna mountains have recently set social media abuzz. From star players and cricketing officials to the crazy fans, many have posed for photographs from the ground with the majestic mountain ranges in the backdrop.

Although the venue may not meet the standards of hosting international events now, Pokhara’s cricket pitch has all the ingredients to make it a spectacular sporting hub in the future. The organisers had to do with makeshift parapet while players’ dugout and media centre are housed under tents. Since the pitch itself was only ready to host the matches just before the tournament began last week, the venue has no permanent facility built on concrete structure.

The majority of the city denizens, however, are cut off from the sporting buzz. Locals and the tourists, captivated by the smell of inter-continental cuisines and live music events, appear least interested in the game that could potentially redefine Pokhara--as cricket hub of the region.

To sustain cricket in a city obsessed with football and volleyball, Pokhara Premier League (PPL) has a long way to go—especially if it is to align its popularity with that of the two other cricket leagues. Rijan Prajoo, an assistant coach with Pokhara Paltan, believes this could just be a start. “PPL obviously is a big draw among the local sport fans who are eager to have a closer look at star players, Nepal’s national team skipper Paras Khadka and Sandeep Lamichhane,” said Prajoo. “It is an encouraging start because this is the first time I have seen such a large crowd at a domestic tournament.”

Pokhara does host some cricket tournaments, but those events have not been able to attract many cricket fans to the ground. Even those who turned up to watch matches in the past were the ones closely connected to the game or the players.

The organisers have made the entrance to the games free in order to encourage fans to watch matches live from the ground. The plan has worked wonders, as around 4,000 spectators on average have been watching the matches at the ground.

Chhumbi Lama, managing director of Queen’s Event Management Pvt Ltd, the PPL organisers, admitted that pulling in spectators was quite a task. “The pitches, lush green outfield and level of competition have so far been fantastic. To attract more fans to the ground is always a challenge.”

His team’s tireless effort has paid off. His team is encouraged by the presence of a large crowd during weekends.

“We need to make sure we upgrade the quality of the competition and facilities. Local authorities are positive in giving this ground a definite shape, and if everything pans out well, cricket could be one of the main assets of Pokhara,” Lama said.

For Prajoo, the premier league is about motivating youngsters to take up the game. “This is the best thing that has happened here,” he said. “Watching their idols play here will definitely fuel more interest and enthusiasm in these kids and eventually raise the popularity of the game.”

Published: 01-11-2018 07:17

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