Wednesday, July 24

Associate Cricket’s Dogfight Kicks Off In Kathmandu today

Sandesh Sigdel, Kathmandu

Namibia and the Netherlands, both participants in the T20 World Cup 2024, join Nepal, another T20 World Cup side, as they converge at the roaring TU International Cricket Ground in Kathmandu to inaugurate the ICC Cricket World Cup League Two today. Keeping the upcoming T20 spectacle at bay, the teams will be engaged in One-Day Internationals, and it’s evident they are buzzing to get things started.

League Two represents the dogfight among Associate nations striving to climb the international cricket hierarchy and challenge the big dogs of the sport. Each of the three teams approach the four-year cycle as everything up for grabs. 

The Netherlands carry with them fond memories of the ODI World Cup in India last year, where they caused a few upsets and left a lasting impression. However, Namibia and Nepal are no pushovers, in their own rights. Nepal, in particular, are a force to be reckoned with at their TU fortress.

Nepal’s aspirations to become the number one Associate: 

On the eve of the series, Nepal skipper Rohit Paudel boldly declared the team’s aspiration to become the top associate nation by the end of the 2027 World Cup cycle.

“We want to become the no. 1 associate nation at the end of the 2027 World Cup,” Rohit asserted. “That’s our goal for the new cycle.”

Reflecting on the challenges of the previous cycle, which saw a rough start leading up to a crucial run that saved Nepal’s ODI status and secured their place in the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, Rohit emphasized the importance of a strong start this time around. 

“Last time, we didn’t have a good start. A good start is needed this time,” he said. “It is an important tournament. We are hopeful and excited for the competition.”

Coach Monty Desai echoed Rohit’s sentiments, emphasizing the importance of a strong start. “To start well is very important,” Desai asserted. “The effort CAN management has put in to establish a good domestic format and progress to play against Canada is a reflection of the work put in place. Now, the competition against Namibia and Netherlands is where the testament will come into play.”

Regarding the last-minute changes to the squad, which saw Anil Shah and Dev Khanal enter the fray after impressive performances against Canada, Desai remained optimistic.

“When the players performed exceptionally well and we had the opportunity to change the squad, it was in the team’s interests to do so,” Desai explained. “It’s a good exercise for all of us. Everyone in the 15-man squad is capable of making it into the playing XI.”

Namibia aim to put their previous visit behind them:

The African nation of Namibia doesn’t hold fond memories of TU, having lost both matches during their last visit. These matches were part of Nepal’s dominant run of 11 wins in 12 matches, with one win even setting a joint record for Nepal’s highest ODI chase. However, Namibia’s skipper, Gerard Erasmus, while acknowledging Nepal’s impressive run over the past 18 months, dismissed the notion of history influencing the upcoming matches.

“The results of Nepal in the last 18 months speak for themselves,” Gerard stated. “We need to fight fire with fire. We can only control our process. It’s about seizing the two points on the day, and history doesn’t really matter much. Hopefully, we can learn some lessons and get better results.”

Namibia’s head coach, Pierre De Bruyn, emphasized that the team has been preparing diligently since the T20 World Cup Qualifiers last year and is ready for a competitive series, prepared to face the challenge posed by two formidable teams.

The World Cup upsetters, Netherlands, eager for a strong start:

Netherlands, are now the well-known tailgaters and are known to cause upsets against the bigger cricketing nations, as evident with their recent World Cup journey. The travelling squad to Nepal features the majority of the players that were not-so-far in India for the World Cup a few months ago. The team seems to have found a way that has worked for them and they will surely continue to do what’s working for them. 

Netherlands’ skipper Scott Edwards sounded excited to getting back into the format that has brought them success recently.“We found a good blueprint with our one-day format and had some success with that”, Scott said. “ We are looking to get back into that this year.”

Scott described the transition between formats, following their preparation trip to South Africa for the upcoming T20 World Cup, as a familiar routine for Associate nations.

“With Associate cricket, we are pretty used to swapping and changing between t20 & one-day format”, Scott added. “We’ve been in South Africa for over two months. The boys have been working on both T20 and one-day formats. You play the conditions you come up against. We’re looking forward to getting back into the one-day format again.”

Responding to queries about facing large crowds, Scott asserted that his team is accustomed to playing in such environments and is comfortable with the challenge.

“We are pretty comfortable and used to playing against loud crowds and lot of the guys enjoy it. That’s the joy of playing international cricket and we’re looking forward to it.”

For now, the electrifying TU Cricket Ground will put the World Cup regulars and top dogs of Associate Cricket to the test. Their performance against two good sides remains to be seen. Nepal will extend a warm welcome to the teams, but won’t shy away from making them leave with a sense of awe and admiration. The extravaganza of Associate Cricket kicks off here.

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