It is a great time to be a Nepali cricket fan. First, the streak of astonishing wins in ICC World Cup League 2 paving way for direct qualifications to the ICC World Cup Qualifiers 2023, then that opening run stand of 171 between Kushal Bhurtel and Asif Shiekh in that first match of the qualifiers against Zimbabwe, followed by ACC premier cup title resulting in us playing the cricketing giants India and Pakistan. Further, how can we forget the match against India at the Asian Games in Hanzhou, China, where we put the IPL star-studded Indian side under pressure. What was once a far-fetched dream is part of Nepal cricket’s illustrious history and now we are going to be part of the T20 World Cup. We are truly and deservingly back on the map of World Cricket.
The eight-wicket victory of Nepal’s Men’s Cricket Team against the United Arab Emirates in the semi-final of the ICC’s Asia region qualifiers for T20 World Cup has booked us a berth in the World Cup to be held in West Indies and the United States in June next year. Interestingly, for the shortest version of the games this will be the biggest World Cup yet, with 20 teams fighting it out for the cup. For the fans like me though, following the win, we have been battling with tsunami of emotions within ourselves because it has been nine long years since the golden generation of Nepali cricket led by the legendary Paras Khadka played at T20 World Cup in Bangladesh.
The watershed moment
The news about our World Cup qualification has brought back fond memories from that World Cup, which I am sure is true for any cricket fan who was witness to the euphoria, pride and celebrations of 2014 World Cup. The visuals of players singing the national anthem before each match, Shakti Gauchan going berserk after every wicket and nail-biting finish in Nepal-Afghanistan match are etched in our memories for life. The win against Hong Kong was special given that it was our first win at a World Cup. However, the win against Afghanistan was the highlight and more satisfying of the two. Current players have mentioned that they have been inspired to chase the World Cup dream because of Nepal’s participation at the 2014 edition of the T20 World Cup. Hence, on the hindsight, Nepal qualification for the 2014 World Cup is equivalent to India’s 1983 World Cup wining moment, which inspired the next generation cricketers to dream big—truly a watershed moment for Nepali cricket.
Inspirations for and beyond cricket
I am a 90s kid, and my generation grew up idolizing foreign cricketers. I have always watched my childhood cricketing heroes in television screen or magazines. The great thing for today’s kids is that they get to watch their cricketing idols playing in TU or Mulpani cricket ground or in domestic competitions across the country and even watch their matches in television channels that broadcast matches of the highest level. That’s the missing link between my and today’s generation.
If the visual of the 2014 T20 World Cup inspired Captain Rohit Paudel’s generation to book a place at the 2024 edition of the Cup, it is hard to fathom the impact of the upcoming World Cup on young cricketers and kids playing at home, streets and alleys across the country.
For sports to grow in any country it requires money, infrastructure, a system to groom and fructify young talents but what it direly needs and cannot be bought by money is inspiration, especially local inspiration, and that is the missing link I mentioned earlier. Success breeds inspiration and vice versa. Fortunately, the incredible success stories coming out of Nepali cricket, especially in the year 2023, has been nothing short of phenomenal. If the visual of the 2014 T20 World Cup inspired Captain Rohit Paudel’s generation to book a place at the 2024 edition of the Cup, it is hard to fathom the impact of the upcoming World Cup on young cricketers and kids playing at home, streets and alleys across the country. Undoubtedly, this will enthuse tectonic shift in the way upcoming cricketers will approach the game.
Talking about inspiration, I present a quote from the movie Coach Carter: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us…And, as we let our own light shine, we consciously give other people permission to do the same.” Indeed, this generation of cricketers have allowed their light to shine, permitting every Nepali to do the same. The success story scripted by our cricketers would be half told if we limit that it to the story of the bat and the ball or the authority with which they beat their opponents. The rest half of the story is about their determination to overcome all odds, undulating motivation to show up for practice amidst controversies surrounding Nepali cricket and their self-belief to challenge and shine against the best in the world despite the lack of basic infrastructure and exposure. I sincerely hope that story of Nepali cricket offers hope to the hopeless and inspire all of us to outperform our own expectation in our respective areas of work. If each one of us starts to walk on that path, the country will have leapfrogged its developmental milestones.
The level playing field
As per the Nepal Labor Migration report 2020, UAE is amongst the top five destination countries for labor migration. Thousands of Nepalis work across the UAE and fill our coffers with much needed remittance income, which I feel creates a hierarchal relationship between the two countries country. It is ironic that because of cricket we have the opportunity to restore some self-esteem and correct the self-inflicted inferiority or imbalance of power with the UAE at least on a cricket field by beating them. However, what we really need to beat is the lack of self-belief and determination that is preventing us from achieving our own world cup glories.