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Milestones on Nepal's road to ODI status

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Nepal_CricketA momentous piece of history was created on March 15 at the Old Hararians Sports Club in Harare, as Paras Khadka-led Nepal secured the much-coveted ODI status for the first time. Their comfortable six-wicket win over Papua New Guinea at the World Cup Qualifier, coupled with the Netherlands’ defeat of Hong Kong the same day, confirmed the Rhinos’ entry into the 16-team ODI club, sparking jubilation among the players and their impassioned supporters back home.

Having made it to the World Cup Qualifier by the skin of their teeth, Nepal continued to keep their fans on tenterhooks in Zimbabwe before eventually finishing eighth out of ten teams – just enough to avoid the disappointment of missing out on the holy grail of ODI cricket. As we rejoice Nepal’s long-awaited induction, here is a look back at the key moments that shaped their success story and enabled them to break into the arena of ‘official’ 50-over international cricket.

Associate membership of the ICC (1996)

Nepal became an Associate member of the International Cricket Council only in 1996, eight years after they became its Affiliate member. Their international debut was at the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Trophy in Kuala Lumpur later that year, in which they managed to finish fourth out of six teams, courtesy of wins against Brunei and Japan. Thanks to an improvement in their cricketing infrastructure, Nepal went on to host the next edition of the ACC Trophy in 1998.

Success at the Under-19 World Cup (2000 to 2008)

Nepal’s emphasis on nurturing talent from a young age bore fruit in the 2000s, as a string of commendable performances at the Under-19 World Cup sowed the seeds for the national team’s rise up the ladder in the decade to follow. At their maiden Under-19 World Cup, in Sri Lanka in 2000, Nepal finished second in their four-team group after beating Kenya. In the 2002 edition in New Zealand, they stunned Pakistan and Bangladesh before losing the Plate final to Zimbabwe.

The 2006 Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka saw Nepal produce their most stirring display at the tournament as they won the Plate Championship with back-to-back nail-biting wins against fancied opposition: they beat South Africa by two runs and New Zealand by one wicket in the semifinal and final respectively. In 2008 in Kuala Lumpur, they saw Zimbabwe off in the Plate quarterfinal and Namibia in the semifinal, before going down to the West Indies in the final.

World Cricket League Division Five (2010)

Paras Khadka, all of 22, had already taken over the reins of Nepal’s senior team when they faced off against five other nations in the WCL Division Five at home. Nepal’s only defeat in the league stage came at the hands of the United States of America, whom they met again in the final. Nepal turned the tables this time, riding on a sensational burst of 7/15 from left-arm spinner Rahul Vishwakarma that kept the USA to 172 and paved the way for a five-wicket win.

World Cricket League Division Four (2012)

Nepal finished third at the 2010 WCL Division Four, which meant that they remained in the same division for the 2012 edition in Malaysia. They made the most of it in their second attempt, remaining unbeaten throughout the competition to soar into Division Three. They again found themselves against the USA in the final, with Basant Regmi (5/20) being the wrecker-in-chief this time. Nepal romped home by eight wickets, chasing the target of 146 with 22 overs to spare.   

World Cricket League Division Three (2013)

Victory at the 2013 WCL Division Three in Bermuda further propelled Nepal towards the top tier of Associate cricket. Though they were inconsistent in the league stage, losing two out of their five games, they sneaked into the final against Uganda on net run rate. Nepal dictated terms in the final, restricting the Ugandans to 151/8 before sealing a five-wicket win in the 40th over. This win allowed Nepal to qualify for the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand in early 2014.    

Making a mark at the World Twenty20 (2014)

Nepal’s successful campaign at the World Twenty20 Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates in late 2013 – they finished third out of 16 teams, behind only Ireland and Afghanistan – saw them qualify for their first major ICC tournament: the 2014 World Twenty20 held in Bangladesh. In the preliminary round, Nepal was clubbed with the hosts, Afghanistan and Hong Kong in a challenging four-team pool, from which only one team was to enter the main (Super Ten) stage.

In their very first T20 international, against Hong Kong, Nepal notched a commanding 80-run win, bowling the opposition out for a paltry 69. Though they suffered an eight-wicket defeat to Bangladesh, they produced a memorable bowling display in their last game against Afghanistan. Defending 141, Nepal conjured a nine-run win, spearheaded by medium pacer Jitendra Mukhiya (3/18). It was only due to an inferior net run rate that they failed to make it to the Super Ten.

Presence in the World Cricket League Championship (2015 to 2017)

Even though Nepal finished fourth out of six teams at the 2015 WCL Division Two in Namibia, they were given a place in the eight-team 2015-17 WCL Championship along with Kenya, as two berths became vacant on account of the promotion of Ireland and Afghanistan to the ODI table. Nepal finished seventh with four wins, but gained plenty of experience by playing higher-ranked Associates. The highlight was a 19-run away win against the Netherlands in August 2016.      

World Cricket League Division Two (2018)

The seventh-place finish in the aforesaid WCL Championship sent Nepal back to Division Two. There was a lot at stake in this six-team tournament – the top two would join eight other teams at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. In their first game against hosts Namibia, Nepal crashed to 56/6 before hanging on for a one-wicket win in a chase of 139. After two more wins and a defeat in the ensuing rounds, Nepal entered into a do-or-die last-round encounter against Canada.

What followed was one of the most dramatic climaxes in the history of List A cricket. Chasing 195 for victory, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Nepal at 144/9 in the 43rd over, with numbers ten and eleven, Karan KC and Sandeep Lamichhane, in the middle. Karan was determination personified though, and crashed 42* in 31 balls to stun Canada and take Nepal over the line off the final ball of the match. Nepal eventually finished second, behind the UAE.       

World Cup Qualifier (2018)

Defeats to Zimbabwe, Scotland and Afghanistan snuffed out Nepal’s long odds to qualify for the World Cup, but ODI status was yet up for grabs. In their last group game against Hong Kong, Nepal were 66/5 in pursuit of 153 before the 15-year-old Rohit Kumar Paudel (44*) helped them win by five wickets. Two other young guns, the prodigious Lamichhane (aged 17) and Dipendra Singh Airee (18), fuddled Papua New Guinea with their leg spin-off spin combination in the crunch playoff.

 

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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