Nepal ready for litmus test against Kenya

Kathmandu, March 10

The Nepal national cricket team was ready to face the litmus test against Kenya when the two teams meet in the first of the two fifth-round matches of the ICC World Cricket League Championship here at the TU Stadium on Saturday.

As both the teams are not in comfortable zone for the top four berths to qualify for the World Cup Qualifier 2018 and cannot afford to lose points at this stage, the outcome of the two matches play vital role in their march. Nepal are at the sixth position with six points, one spot and two points behind the five-time World Cup finalists Kenya in the eight-team standing.

In the previous four rounds, Nepal lost all four away matches against Papua New Guinea and Scotland before registering a 2-0 victory over Namibia at home. They then played a 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in Amstelveen. In the previous encounters between the two teams, Kenya have won both the matches under the WCL Division-II tournament in 2015 in Namibia. Nepal faced a five-wicket loss in the first match, while they lost by 15 runs in the second encounter. Nepal failed to reach 200-mark in both the matches despite Gyanendra Malla scoring 91 and 48 runs respectively. Binod Bhandari, who is expected to take the gloves in tomorrow’s match, had scored 73 runs in the second match.

Nepal are looking to win all the remaining six matches to remain in contention for the World Cup Qualifiers and the camp knows the importance very well. "Everybody in the team knows that the path ahead will be smooth if we win these two matches and we have prepared accordingly," said coach Jagat Tamatta. "All the boys are mentally ready to go into the match and are determined to put up a good show to register victory," he added.

Tamatta said Kenya were a strong side and the final decision would be taken after assessing the wicket and conditions before the match. "We have prepared certain plans for the match and we will decide as per the demand of the situation including the wicket. Everybody knows our strength is spin attack, so we will go into the match accordingly," said Tamatta. "As we are a home side, we are well aware of the characteristics of the wicket and that will be an added advantage for us although the ICC has not allowed us to use the centre wicket for practice," he added.

Asked about the chances of Paras Khadka, coach Tamatta said the skipper was trying his level best to play the match. "He is with us all the time and has been recovering well. He has batted in the training but has not bowled yet. He is mentally prepared to go into the field but we are in mood to wait until the last moments to decide his inclusion in the team," he said. Khadka has been recovering following the Appendicitis surgery three weeks ago. Tamatta said rookie Sunil Dhamala and vice-captain Gyanendra Malla would open the innings and that the batting line-up was a strong one. "We have good batsmen in middle and lower order as well," he said. "The players were picked up based on their performance and all of them knew their responsibility well. We want to play good cricket and win matches."

Skipper Khadka said the match was equally important for both the teams and that the home team would take it easy. "The overall team looks good as the best and in-form players were selected in the squad. We will have home advantage but need to play good cricket to win matches," said Khadka, who was willing to play despite the injury. "I have improved a lot and I can see a huge difference in me compared to the last couple of days. The injury came at a wrong time and most probably we will decide tomorrow morning as we cannot make a call at the moment," he added.

Khadka said the team was well equipped even if he does not play the match. "I am willing to play given a chance and my body is also responding well. Cricket is a team game and it should not be restricted to an individual. We have been performing well in the recent past and the players are ready and well equipped to adopt and play in this condition. But the weather condition is challenging and I fear it might play spoilsport," added Khadka.

Asked about the opponents, Khadka said all the teams in WCL were of same standard and no match would be easy for any one. "Kenya is a good team with rich history and we were close in the two matches we played against them in the past. It's a matter of standing firm and the team who can handle the pressure well will come out as victors," added Khadka, who has been the backbone of Nepali cricket since taking over the captaincy in 2009. "I might have played my part in the past but cricket, being a team game, needs contribution from all the members of the team as no individual alone can win matches."

Like Nepal, the African nation also had their final preparation in India. Kenya played four matches and won three in Vadodara, while Nepal lost one out of three played in Delhi. Kenya skipper Rakep Patel said they covered all the areas in the India tour. "It was a good experience (in India) as we covered all the areas," said Patel. The Kenya skipper said his side’s strength was bowling and hoped to put up a good show. "The only challenge for us will be the local conditions as the pitch is little bit slow here. I think 250-260 will be good defendable score."

Asked about the opponents, Patel said: "Nepal has always been a strong team and they give us a hard time. I think we need to do well, play as a team and I hope our senior players step up so that it would be easier to win here. The home crowd will be a boost for Nepal and at the same time they will have pressure as the spectators will be expecting a lot. We won’t have any pressure as we come and play cricket."

NEPAL: Paras Khadka (captain), Dipendra Airee, Mahaboob Alam, Binod Bhandari, Sunil Dhamala, Shakti Gauchan, Sompal Kami, Avinash Karn, Sandeep Lamichhane, Gyanendra Malla, Sagar Pun, Basant Regmi, Aarif Sheikh, Sharad Vesawkar.

KENYA: Rakep Patel (captain), Dhiren Gondaria, Irfan Karim, Karan Kaul, Pushpak Kerai, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Nelson Odhiambo, Lucas Oluoch, Elijah Otieno, Rushabhvardhan Patel, Gurdeep Singh.

KC out, Karn in

KATHMANDU: National cricket team medium pace bowler Karan KC has been ruled out of the ICC World Cricket League Championship matches against Kenya due to health issues. At a time when skipper Paras Khadka is struggling to be match fit following surgery three weeks ago, KC was taken to Vayodha Hospital on Friday after he complained of abdominal pain and bouts of vomiting. He was diagnosed with Acute Appendicitis and underwent surgery, informed Technical Analyst Raman Shiwakoti in a release. "KC will not be able to play the upcoming matches on March 11 and 13." KC has been replaced by Avinash Karn following the approval of ICC.

Tickets sold out

KATHMANDU: All the tickets of the ICC World Cricket League Championship match between Nepal and Kenya slated for Saturday have been sold. According to eSewa, who got the responsibility of selling tickets, said a total of 11,200 tickets were sold until the eve of the match. "We have stopped selling tickets upon the request of the ICC," eSewa said in a release. "The first match is sold out and we have limited number of tickets for second match to be held on Monday."

Media denied entry at TU Stadium

KATHMANDU: The International Cricket Council, which has acquired the TU Stadium for the World Cricket League Championship matches between Nepal and Kenya, barred media from entering the venue on Friday. The members of media, who possessed the accreditation card issued by the ICC, were made to wait for more than 45 minutes after security personnel refused to open the gates saying they did not have the orders to let media inside the stadium. ICC Development Events Manager Gurjit Singh even threatened the media saying "I can do whatever I want."

The members of press, who had reached the stadium to cover the training on the eve of the first match, managed to get inside the media box only to discover a pathetic management. The media box neither had chairs nor the tent. After watching Nepali team's training for almost four hours, the journalists were forced to interview coach Jagat Tamatta under the open sky. To make the situation further worse for the media, it started raining. With no support from the management and no roof to save them from the torrential rain, media arranged an umbrella for Nepal skipper Paras Khakda and his Kenyan counterpart Rakep Patel to get their jobs done.