Youth cricketers ready to fight for WC berth

Kathmandu, October 13

Nepali youth cricketers today left for Malaysia to participate in the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup Qualifiers with eyes firmly set on earning the berth for next year’s tournament.

Nepal had earned the chance to play the qualifiers after finishing second behind champions Afghanistan in last year’s ACC U-19 Premier in Kuwait. The Qualifiers was scheduled to be held in Kathmandu but ICC shifted the tournament to Malaysia citing security reasons.

Nepal will fight against the United States of America, Ireland, Papua New Guinea and Uganda for the World Cup berth. The winning team of the qualifiers will join Afghanistan in the 11th edition of the youth World Cup to be held next year in Bangladesh, slated for January 22 to February 14. Nepal have previously played six times in the World Cup, five straight from 2000 and in 2012. Nepal failed to qualify in 2010 and 2014.

Coach Jagat Tamatta believed the Nepali team was by no means weaker than other opponents in the qualifiers. “All the teams are of same standard and we are capable of beating all the opponents,” he said. “We will play like champions and return home as a champion team,” he added. Tamatta said the players were mentally, physically and tactically prepared for the tournament. “We are all set and the team is raring to go to the field and win matches,” Tamatta said.

Tamatta said the two-week tour of India helped the team a lot, especially the batsmen. “The players got good exposure in India, where we played five matches against local sides,” said Tamatta, whose team won all games in Delhi. “We had some issues with the opening pair and middle order before going to India but we have found the rhythm as the openers laid the foundation for victory in all the matches in Delhi,” he added.

Asked about the realistic chances of qualifying for the World Cup, Tamatta said every match was important and the team would take each game as final. “We are going to Malaysia to win and we will return back as victors. The players are also used to with local conditions in Malaysia as we were there last month for the ACC U-19 Premier,” he said. Tamatta said spin attack was the strength of the team and Dipendra Singh Airee and Arif Sheikh were the match-turners. “The team is all-rounder based and we will make the strategy as per the need of the situation,” he added.

Skipper Raju Rijal said the team members were confident of winning the tournament and earning a place in the World Cup. “We had a good training and all the players are ready to perform in the field,” he said. “We just need to perform to our potential as we are capable of beating all the opponents,” Rijal added. Asked about the most difficult opponents, captain Rijal said his team was the best in the qualifiers. “There is no such team in the opponents with whom we should be scared of,” he added.

Earlier, Cricket Association of Nepal Vice-president Keshav Ghimire, General Secretary Uttam Karmacharya, Member Naresh Shrestha and national team head coach Pubudu Dassanayake bade farewell to the team. Dhirendra Saud accompanied the players to Malaysia as team manager, while umpire Binay Kumar Jha also left to officiate in the qualifiers.

Dassanayake advised the youth players to focus on their game. “The tournament is really important as participating in the World Cup gives huge experience for the players,” said Dassanayake. “Junior cricket is all about putting pressure on opponents and recovering well from pressure situation. You o not need to worry much as I know you are in safe hands of Jagat Tamatta, who is vastly experienced coach,” he added. Dassanayake said Nepal had a chance to become full member in a decade. “I strongly believe Nepal will be a full member of ICC in 10-12 years and you all are the key members of the squad at that time,” he said.

SQUAD: Raju Rijal (C), Kushal Bhurtel, Sunil Dhamala, Sushil Kandel, Yogendra Singh Karki, Saurabh Khanal, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi, Shankar Rana, Arif Sheikh, Dipesh Shrestha, Rajbir Singh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Sandeep Sunar, Prem Tamang.