Kathmandu, January 22
Nepal national blind cricket team on Sunday returned from Dubai after participating in the fifth Blind Cricket World Cup which was jointly hosted by Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates from January 8-20.
A total of six nations — co-hosts Pakistan, Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia — competed in the event and Nepal registered one victory in five matches and failed to achieve their target of reaching the last four. Nepal defeated Australia by eight wickets in the last match in the UAE.
The pain of failing to reach the semi-finals was too small in front of the difficulties faced by the team members in their journey to Pakistan.A 22-member squad, including 14 players, was scheduled to reach Pakistan in four days — via land route — to compete in the 40-over tournament due to lack of budget in the association.
However, the journey turned out to be a nightmare as soon as they entered India. The team got stranded for seven hours in Gorakhpur after their train to Amritsar was cancelled because of heavy fog. According to skipper Kirtan Shrestha Duwal, who announced his retirement after the World Cup, the team reached Gorakhpur on January 3 at 5PM and the train to Amritsar was scheduled for 7PM. Unfortunately the train got cancelled and the team was stranded under open sky with no further clue. “When we heard about the cancellation of the train, we had no idea what to do next,” said Duwal. “We even gave a thought at turning back to Nepal,” added Duwal.
Cricket Association of the Blind, Nepal President Pawan Ghimire described the journey as a “horrible one” before the team managed a bus to Amritsar at 2AM. “We had decided to wait until 5AM for the bus,” he said. “Somehow we managed a bus but the team members had to adjust as there were only 17 seats.The players suffered a lot in the 18-hour journey and some of them even vomited in the bus. And we had to struggle for hotel in Delhi as we were unaware of the place,” recalled Ghimire.
Ghimire said they flew to Amritsar from Delhi after managing airfare from the association. And with the support of Blind Sports Association of Amritsar, the Nepali team reached to Wagah boarder and entered Pakistan on January 6.
According to skipper Duwal, Pakistani officials treated the Nepali team members well and they got enough rest before the tournament. “We got physical rest but we were not mentally prepared and the players were down which affected their performance on the field. The horrific travel let the team down in the tournament,” added Duwal.
“The players had to play despite suffering from injuries as we did not have back-up. I had high fever but was forced to play against Bangladesh. Similarly, four players were not able to walk properly against Australia and they had to take pain killers to keep on playing,” said Duwal. He also said that the Nepali players had poor kits compared to their opponents.
After the matches against Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Nepali team flew to the UAE for remaining group stage games against Sri Lanka, India and Australia in Dubai. Although, the Nepali team suffered a lot while travelling to Pakistan, they returned home in flight, thanks to the funds raised by Nepali Cricket Supporters Society.
“We are grateful to the NCSS as the team members were able to fly back home,” said Duwal. “Actually the NCSS did the job that the government should have done for the athletes of the country,” said Duwal.
A version of this article appears in print on January 23, 2018 of The Himalayan Times.