Nepal count on experience for success

Kathmandu, August 6:

All is set. The morale is high. But the road ahead is tough.

National cricket coach Roy Luke Dias believes experience is the strength of his side and is confident of qualifying for the fifth straight Under-19 World Cup. Dias hoped his side could win the qualifier, the ACC U-19 Elite Cup Cricket Tournament slated for August 18-29 in Malaysia.

“We have a very balanced team as most of the players have played in previous editions while few others have the experience of playing in other international tournaments,” says Dias. “Rahul BK is the only one who has not played in age-group tournaments earlier, but

I think Rahul is a good find,” he justifies.

“Every member has to perform and play good cricket,’ says Dias. “The key point is the players have to believe in themselves,” he adds. “Players have really worked hard and I, along with the team, hope that we are going to win the U-19 Cup and qualify for the World Cup for the fifth straight time,” says confident Dias.

However, Nepal’s preparation was greatly marred by the bad weather. The team was limited to gymnasium and were restricted from fielding practice. “Weather limited our training, as we could not manage the proper surface for our fast bowlers,” he says.

The Nepali team is leaving for Sri Lanka on August 9 to play three practice matches with Sri Lanka U-19 side. Sri Lankan Ambassador to Nepal Sumith Nakandala and Jayantha Dharmadasa of Sri Lanka Cricket helped manage the Nepali team’s week-long stay in Sri Lanka. “Luckily we are going to Sri Lanka and the practice matches there would help fine tuning the team,” says Dias.

Nepal won the U-19 trophies in 2001 (Kathmandu), 2003 (Karachi) and 2005 (Kathmandu). The three-time defending champions Nepal are drawn in Group A this time and will play Singapore on August 20, before taking on UAE (August 22), Thailand (August 23) and Oman (August 25).

With Malaysia already in the World Cup list as the host country, the other Asian team will not only have to win the tournament or enter the final along with Malaysia, but also have to beat the European runner-up team to qualify for the 2008 World Cup.

Dias accepts the road to the World Cup is not easy. “Cricket is improving in all the countries and everybody now wants to win,” he said. “ICC will be keenly monitoring the U-19 tournament and our opponents would strive to beat us and impress the ICC,” he adds.

Skipper Paras Khadka was also confident of his team’s success. “Most of our team members are experienced and have the potential to shine,” he says. While Paras, Sharad Vesawkar, and Raj Shrestha will be playing their third Under-19 tournament, the tournament will be the second for Amrit Bhattarai, Avay Rana, Shashi Keshari and Mahesh Chhetry. Rom Shrestha, Sagar Khadka, Antim Thapa and Chandra Saud were the key players in Nepal’s U-15 victory two years ago in Dubai.

Paras, however, cautions his players no to be over-confident. “We may not have difficulty in beating other teams but Afghan-istan could cause us some trouble,” he adds.