HEMANTA RAJ KAFLE
TOWNSVILLE: Nepali team is all geared up for the ICC U-19 World Cup campaign as the showpiece of the age-group cricket begins here in Queensland on Saturday.
Though Nepal are not scheduled to play any match on the opening day, when three-time champions Australia launch their title defence with a match against 1998 winner England, coach Pubudu Dassanayake believed his side’s morale is very high.
Nepal will take on hosts Australia on Monday after their eight-day conditioning camp in Darwin and one week practice sessions in Brisbane, of which Dassanayake said the pre-tournament preparation has fuelled in much needed energy in his boys.
Nepal lost both of their practice matches against Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand, but Dassanayake said the results have hardly bothered him. “We lost two matches but the confidence level has certainly been high. We are ready to face any side,” added Dassanayake.
“Naresh (Budhayer) and Subash (Khakurel) both batted very well during the warmup matches and the team is quite excited with their performance,” the coach said. Naresh made 114 against New Zealand on Wednesday, while Subash was more consistent with the bat scoring 68 against PNG and 59 against the Kiwis.
Nepal — who arrived in Townsville after a two-hour flight from Brisbane — spent almost four hours in the nets today. Skipper Prithu Baskota was rested for the two warmup matches due to twisted ankle but joined his teammates in the nets. Prithu said he is gradually recovering from injury and hoped to be match-fit against Australia. Team physio Thilana is looking after the players injuries.
“Prithu and Avinash (Karn) should recover for the Australia match,” said Thilana. Seamer Avinash only bowled four overs against New Zealand after he suffered a groin injury but bowled for the whole practice session today. Nepal’s assistant coach Jagat Tamatta was hopeful of coming with an upset victory over one of the Test playing nations.
Apart from Australia, Nepal are also up against another Test giants England. They will also play Ireland. “We are looking forward to a big victory as we have not only raised standards in bowling and fielding but also have been very good with the bat,” said Tamatta.
“It will be difficult to score runs against the likes of seamers Krishna Karki, Avinash and Saurav Khanal along with spinners Rahul Kumar BK, Bhuwan Karki and part timer Sagar Pun,” added Tamatta.
“Though opener Pradeep (Airee) has not been able to deliver so far, I am hopeful of impressive performance from Subash, Naresh, Hashim (Ansari), Rajesh (Pulami) and skipper Prithu himself,” the assistant coach said.
After some light training on Saturday morning, Nepal will leave for Tony Island Stadium to watch Australia play England. Also on the opening day, two-time former champions Pakistan will take on Afghanistan, Asian rivals Bangladesh play Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe will meet PNG.