Nepal cricket team eyes big in Twenty20 World Qualifier

KATHMANDU: With an aim of winning the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier in Ireland and Scotland, the Nepal national cricket team left for England for the final-leg preparation on Tuesday.

In a week-long stay in England, the Nepali team is scheduled to play four practice matches against local sides before heading towards Amsterdam to play the four-match Twenty20 International series against the Netherlands. After the series, Nepal will be officially in the ICC ranking of the shortest version of the game. Nepal have so far played four T20Is — three in last edition of World T20 in Bangladesh and one against Hong Kong in Sri Lanka — and a team needs to play at least eight T20Is to enter the standing.

Nepal will then participate in the ICC World T20 Qualifier slated for July 6-26 in Ireland and Scotland before taking on Scotland in the ICC World Cricket League World Championship matches on July 29 and 31. Nepal, who qualified for their maiden World Cup in 2014, will play against Ireland, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea, Namibia, USA and Jersey in the Group A matches. Afghanistan, UAE, Netherlands, Scotland, Canada, Kenya and Oman are in Group B.

The pool winners will automatically qualify for the World T20, while second and third-placed teams will play in cross matches for two more berths. The losers of that matches will fight for the remaining two spots against the fourth placed teams. The six qualifiers will join 10 Full Members of ICC in the World Twenty20 to be held in India next year.

Nepal skipper Paras Khadka said the team’s goal was to win the Qualifier and not just the qualification. “We have been performing well recently. Last time we finished third and we want to do even better. That’s winning the tournament,” said Khadka. Khadka said the process was not so easy. “All the teams in the qualifiers will be motivated and well prepared and they are aware of the opponents’ strength and weakness. So we have to perform at our best as T20 is a game in which anything can happen at any point,” added Khadka.

Khadka said the team was raring to go to the field and perform. “We trained in India and we were provided with the best facilities at the Dharamshala and we will also play practice matches in London before playing four-match series in Amsterdam,” he added. “So the preparation part is satisfactory and we should be able to make it as all the team members are fit. We will go with our best XI and try to move forward.”

Coach Dassanayake said the team had a wonderful tour of India and the preparation in the UK and Netherlands will help the team to build up for the Qualifiers. “I have always said that we want to become a No 1 team among Associates and this is good opportunity for us. We are really looking to win this tournament and we can,” added Dassanayake, who rated Ireland and Namibia as the tough teams. “The level of cricket that we play, I am expecting to top the group and go into the finals.”

Dassanayake said the tour of India was one of the best and thanked the Indian cricket board for providing with the facilities. “BCCI really took care of our needs and especial thanks to HPCA, which was ever ready to help the Nepali team,” he said. “The conditions were very similar to that of Ireland and I wished we were there for a longer period. It was a 12-day tour but a fruitful one for us.” Dassanayake said the best part of the team was the hunger in the players to go forward. “I am happy with the way these youngsters have improved in last six-eight months. We are up there and we look like an international team. The pressure of qualifying for the second time is there but it’s a part of game,” he added.

Meanwhile, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) extended coach Dassanayake’s contract until December 31. CAN acting President Deepak Koirala and Dassanayake signed the papers at the farewell programme. Dassanayake was handed a six-month contract as the previous deal — signed in September last year with the Ministry of Youth and Sports — was going to end on July 15, midway through the qualifiers. “From personal point of view, it’s very tough for me when I get shorter period. I actually wanted to do the qualifiers and move forward with my personal life. But CAN wanted me to be there until December 31 and I signed it as I always say when I put my hands into Nepal and now I cannot get out of it. Even if I don’t coach and leave, Nepal is going to be in my heart always,” he added.

Minister for Irrigation NP Saud, CAN acting President Koirala, Secretary at MoYS Dipendra Nath Sharma, Olympian taekwondo ace Deepak Bista among others bade farewell to the team.