The Nepali Cricket Team has dominated the sporting media headlines this week. It has done so because of the high margin and convincing victory against Mongolia and Maldives respectively while playing 20 over cricket games in the Asian Game being held in China at the present. It is natural to be the talk of the town in the moment of victory. But it gained equal amount of attraction in the defeat also. Though India registered win against Nepal in the quarter final played last Tuesday, it was Nepal which was showered praise for its performance. It was eyeing victory till the last few overs and the game displayed dramatic ups and downs before its completion.
Cricket is something of a stark contrast. While it is liked by some, it is equally hated by the others. Even in England which is considered as its place of origin, more people like Football than cricket. Mick Jagger of Rolling Stone pop band fame is one of those cricket fans who makes it sure to see the video of matches wherever played more so involving England that too if it is a Test Cricket. But there are others like Ram Gopal Sharma, Indian Bollywood celebrity who dislikes it and thinks that Cricket is the game for unemployed.
The first cricket Test Match was played in 1876 between England and Australia the year that Junga Bahadur of Nepal left for his heavenly abode.
Cricket is said to have been played in Anglo Saxon times in England who were the contemporaries of golden period of Licchavis in Nepal. But the first cricket Test Match was played in 1876 between England and Australia the year that Junga Bahadur of Nepal left for his heavenly abode. Test Matches are played for five days and even then they may end in a draw. Only the connoisseurs and the die-hard fans of the games followed it. Being a British Game, it was played in its colonies round the world. Britain was such a huge Empire that it was said "No sun sets in the British Empire". If it would set in India, it would still be signing in America both of which were the British colonies in the past. It is presently followed very feverishly in India. But the advent of 20 over game that is being played in China for the Asian Games at the present has attracted the commoners and connoisseurs all alike these days.
In India, Cricket is a religion and the cricketing celebrities like Sachin Tendulkar was crowned with Bharat Ratna, the highest Civilian award are the demi Gods. The other person to be awarded was Indian Scientist CNR Rao for more than 1500 papers published in the reputed Journals. It is but natural that for Nepal playing against India was a great moment for the Nepali cricket Team and Nepali cricket fans. Nepali Cricket fans are very notable for their passion for Cricket. It can be seen in matches played in Tribhuvan University Ground how the Cricket fans occupied every inch of the Ground interior. At the exterior can be seen several of them holding flags atop the peripheral trees without caring for injury due to likely stumble down the ground.
Nepali Cricket has to be perceived against this backdrop. It had a modest beginning in the forties with Madan Shamsher the son of Chandra Shamsher promoting it. In less than eight decades, it has scaled dizzy heights. The victory in 11 out of 12 matches thereby qualifying for the Asian cup is one of those proud moments. It was in a rather tough group featuring India and Pakistan, two cricketing giants and it still displayed its budding skills against the Indian match where it scored 230 runs. Against, Pakistan it did not do that well but still it did not face a humiliating defeat as did Sri Lanka, a Test Playing Nation which was humbled out for a paltry 50 runs in the Asia Cup against India despite being a World Cup 50 over champion and several times holder of the Asia Cup.
The Asian Games currently underway in Hangzhou, China was memorable for Nepal. Against the match with Mongolia records tumbled in a way likely to be unbroken for long time in the future. The first one was the highest score of 314 for 3 made by Nepal. The previous highest was a twin 278 scored by Afghanistan against Ireland and by Czech Republic against Turkey.
Kushal Malla scored the fastest century playing only 34 balls in a T20 International.
If this was the team score to cherish for the future, one could find the individual scores par excellence. Kushal Malla scored the fastest century playing only 34 balls in a T20 International. He was the second oldest to hit a century at 19 years and 206 days. The previous record of 35 balls belonged to three players like South African David Miller, Rohit Sharma, the Indian Captain and Sudesh Wikramasekara of Czech Republic. As if this was not enough, Dipendra Singh Airee created record by scoring the fastest 50 in only 9 balls. The previous record was 12 balls consumed by an Indian Yuva Raj Singh, West Indian Chris Gayle and Hajratulla Zazai from Afghanistan. Recently, Dipendra played in a Canadian Franchise participating from the Montreal Tigers Team.
The other fabulous record was the margin of victory which was 273 for Nepal. The earlier record was of 257 by Czech Republic against Turkey. The other notable achievement was the strike rate. Airee's strike rate of 520 dwarfed the previous best of 430 of Malcolm Waller scored in a Zimbabwe domestic match. This is the first event in T20s when a batter has scored at a 500-plus strike rate in an innings of 10 or more balls.
The numbers of sixes, 26 of them hit by Nepal also is a world record. These are also the most in any T20 match, beating the 23 sixes hit by Balkh Legend batters against Kabul Zwanan in the Afghanistan Premier League in 2018. 22 sixes were also hit in a match by Afghanistan against Ireland in Dehradun in 2019 and by West Indies against South Africa in Centurion earlier this year.
Nepal also played a winning match against Maldives. It scored 212 runs in 20 overs and bowled Maldives out for just 74 runs. Captain Rohit Paudel contributed by scoring 52 runs. Consequently, it qualified to play India in the quarter finals.
It was reminiscent of Brave Balabhadra and his spirited warriors going down against the British in 1814.
The match against India was certainly scintillating. India scored 202 runs riding on the century from Yajashvi Jaiswal. Though Nepal started well by bowling a tight first over by fast bowler Sompal Kami, it could not maintain the tempo in the following overs with the result that India made a mammoth total of more than 200 runs. However, Nepal did not fold to a miniscule score as was generally thought of facing the likes of Arshdeep Singh and Avesh Khan the fast bowling duo followed by the spinning wizard like Ravi Bishnoi and Sai Kishore. Nepal were able to score 179 with lusty hitting of Dipendra Singh Airee and Sundeep Jora with the result that the game had come down to scoring 56 runs of 24 balls which was not impossible in a 20 over match. But after the Nepali duo were out, Nepal appeared heading for defeat. The fast bowler Rajan KC hit two sixes but these were not enough to pull out what could be an incredible victory.
Nepal was however all praise from the commentators, players and fans all alike. Even in defeat, they commanded an incredible appreciation. It was reminiscent of Brave Balabhadra and his spirited warriors going down against the British in 1814. Vansistart and the historian GRC William have praised the Nepali valor very eloquently. Similarly, Rohit Paudel and his energetic as well as enthusiastic team members put a show to be proud for Nepal.
Well the records may have been made against a cricketing minnow Mangolia but records are records after all. They remain in limelight until they are superseded or even till later. And all this has been achieved with the Government providing a peanut investment or none at all. At a time when the politicians and even the bureaucrats and in fact many of the Nepali people have tarnished the image of the country by going neck deep in corruption, the cricket team has certainly bolstered the sagging national spirit. The Government should increase the investment many fold for such a prestigious outfit.
All this would not be possible, however, without the untiring effort of Monty Desai, the Nepali Cricket Team coach. He has indeed been a blessing for Nepal. His highly philosophical approach of seeking to keep a happy dressing room and focusing on one game at a time has taken Nepal to incredible height of its own kind when it had hit the rock bottom prior to his arrival in the scene. Nepali cricket fans will be ever and over grateful to Mr. Desai for his remarkable deed.
The author is the former Vice-Chancellor of Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).