Nepal’s journey in the cricketing world has been nothing short of a fairytale. In the 2014 World T20, they created waves when they defeated Hong Kong by 80 runs and Afghanistan by nine runs but missed qualifying to the main draw by a whisker. However, their journey was interrupted in a devastating way in April 2015 when the country was hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake which killed close to 10,000 people. The cricketing infrastructure was totally damaged while some of the players were scarred physically and emotionally. However, the cricketers showed their resilience and they rebuilt. In March 2018, the ICC granted Nepal ODI status and in less than one year, they have created history by winning a bilateral ODI series in the UAE which was held recently in the ICC Cricket Academy venue in Dubai.
Speaking exclusively to News Nation, Paras Khadka, the skipper who became the first Nepal player to hit an ODI century to guide the side to history, stated that the game of cricket was their ultimate healer following the devastating earthquake and spoke about how Nepal has made giant strides. “It was hard. The whole country was suffering. More than cricket, it was about lives. It was about getting back to normal. Luckily, we managed to pull through. It was a tough time. Life is bigger than anything else. Cricket was actually a healer. The game allowed us to forget the bad times,” Khadka said.
For Khadka and many Nepal players, April 2018, three years after the catastrophic earthquake was a day of absolute joy. Nepal defeated Papau New Guinea by six wickets in Harare to earn ODI status. Since 2010, Nepal had been struggling in Division Five of Cricket but through sheer hard work and determination, Nepal scaled the summit. Khadka fondly recalls the day when Nepal were awarded ODI status.
“The journey has been fabulous. The ODI status last year was one of the biggest things for us. We are here in our second bilateral series in which we have won 2-1. The journey has been amazing from Division 5 to ODI. There have been lots of ups and downs. There were plenty of sacrifices from players who came and went. There were plenty of highs and lows but we are finally here. Hopefully, we can make the most of out of this and get good exposure for our players so that we can become better,” Khadka said.
Sandeep Lamichhane – International star
If there is one cricketer who has made giant strides in the world of cricket from the Himalayan nation, it is young legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane. The 18-year-old has been a history-maker in a lot of ways, becoming the first player from Nepal to play for Delhi Daredevils (now Delhi Capitals) in the Indian Premier League, St Kitts and Nevi Patriots in the Caribbean Premier League and for Melbourne Stars in the Australian Big Bash League. Khadka said Lamichhane is the prime reason why Nepal is on the world cricketing map.
“Sandeep has been fantastic. He is playing franchise T20 cricket all over the globe representing Nepal. People now know that Nepal plays cricket because of him and it sends a strong message. It is good. There is plenty of talent that is emerging after Sandeep,” Khadka said.
In Nepal’s first ODI series, they were held 1-1 by the Netherlands. After losing the first game by 55 runs, they held on to win the next game by one run. In the first game against UAE, they were bowled out for 113 and UAE won by three wickets. Despite the loss, Khadka remained positive because they had made UAE work very hard in chasing a small target.
“Both teams really struggled. With 40 runs to get and only three wickets remaining, we still had a chance when UAE were chasing 114. However, the UAE batsmen played sensibly and got them through. We had built pressure and this gave us the belief to bounce back mentally in the second game,” Khadka said.
The belief worked brilliantly. Nepal turned the series around as they thrashed UAE by 145 runs with Sompal Khemi taking 5/33 and in the last match, Khadka smashed a century as Nepal secured their place in the history books. Nepal cricket is on a high but there are issues. The Cricket Association of Nepal has been banned by the ICC since 2016 due to government interference. Khadka stated that getting the right cricketing environment for the youngsters was the key.
“We need to sort out our management issues. It is important that we get our cricket board to function. We need to invest into this talent. We need to expose players to the right cricketing environment. We have a fantastic future ahead for Nepal cricket,” Khadka said.
History secured, outlook positive. Khadka's boys will be aiming to take the cricketing world by storm in the coming years as they continue their fairytale journey.