Nepal's Resilient Spirit at T20 World Cup 2024


Playing at the World Cup is the ultimate dream of any national team. With the low investment and sub-standard infrastructure in sports, playing at the World Cup has been a distant dream for most Nepali national teams and players. Cricket, however, is fulfilling the dream of playing on the global stage by qualifying for the ICC Men’s Twenty20 World Cup.
Nepal first realised its World Cup dream in 2014, when the Nepali cricket team qualified for the T20 World Cup played in Bangladesh. It took ten years for Nepal to revel in the global event again after the cricket team booked their ticket to the T20 World Cup 2024, co-hosted by the United States and the West Indies. 

On both occasions, Nepal’s journey ended in the group stages but succeeded in leaving its mark on the global stage. 
Back in 2014, Nepal managed to register two wins from three matches but failed to progress to the second stage. The win came against the associate nations Hong Kong and Afghanistan but was lost to host nation Bangladesh. 

This time, Nepal returned home winless from the US and the West Indies. Nepal was on the receiving end from the start. They failed to defend the modest 106-run target against the Netherlands. Nepal failed to take advantage of their supporters, who thronged to Grand Prairie Stadium from all across the US and went down by six wickets in the opening fixture. 
Nepal could have done better against fellow associate sides, but the Dutch bowlers left Nepali batters bamboozled. The bowling and fielding departments also could not fare better, leaking runs and dropping catches. 

Their second fixture against heavyweight Sri Lanka was abandoned due to rain in Florida, denying Nepal an opportunity to showcase their skills against a top-tier team. Thanks to the rain, Nepal earned their first point on the group table, giving them hope of qualifying for the Super 8. Nevertheless, Nepal needed to produce upsets against the ICC full members, South Africa and Bangladesh, in the Caribbean. The win over the Test sides could have created a history for Nepal. 


Unfortunately, the heartbreak continued for Nepal against both the Test nations in St.Vincent. 
Nepali bowlers scintillated with their bowling from the word go against South Africa and Bangladesh, restricting them to a modest 116 and 106 runs, respectively. 
Given their experiences, batting depth, and bowling strength, South Africa and Bangladesh were clear favourites against the Rhinos. 
Contrary to expectations, Nepal kept the Proteas under pressure throughout the match. 

Taking advantage of the slow pitch at Arnos Vale Stadium in Kingstown, part-time spinners Kushal Bhurtel (4-19) and Dipendra Singh Airee (3-21) restricted the mighty South Africa to a paltry 115. Leg-break spinner Sandeep Lamichhane (0-18) had batters at his mercy in his comeback to the national squad after seven months.
Nepal were on the brink of claiming their first-ever victory over the ICC full members when two runs were required from the final two balls.
Unfortunately, Gulshan Jha missed a shot and ran himself out at the non-striker's end, giving South Africa a final-ball triumph. 

Nepal sat comfortably on the driving seat when the top-order took Nepal to 85/3 in the 14th over. Aasif Sheikh (42), Kushal Bhurtel (23), and Anil Shah (35) managed to provide the team with much-needed impetus. 

But Nepal could not handle the pressure, and South Africa spinner Tabraiz Shamsi (4-19) turned the match upside down by picking two wickets in the 18th over. Fast bowlers Anrich Nortje and Ottneil Baartman then did the rest of the job, avoiding the biggest upset at the World Cup. 
After losing the closely contested match, Nepal’s World Cup challenge came to an end, with their last match against Bangladesh being merely academic. 
Looking to avenge the loss inflicted by Bangladesh ten years ago in the 2014 T20 World Cup, Nepal put their opposition on the rope with a brilliant bowling display. 

With two wickets apiece, Sompal Kami, Dipendra Singh Airee, Rohit Paudel, and Sandeep Lamichhane restricted Bangladesh to just 106 runs. 
A decent opening partnership and disciplined batting were what were required from the top order for Nepal in the run chase. Nepal, however, succumbed to a masterclass of medium pacers  Tanzim Hasan Sakib and Mustafizur Rahaman and were eventually all out for 85 runs against Bangladesh. 

Dipendra Sing Airee and Kushal Malla tried to steady Nepal’s innings with a 52-run partnership after going down to 26/5. It was not enough for Nepal to cross the line, however. Bowlers, especially spinners, did a phenomenal job by constraining the opponents to a paltry score. It was the job of batters to capitalise on the bowling effort and turn matches in their favour. 

Fighting spirit

The gritty batting show that pushed South Africa to the last ball raised some hopes for Nepali batters. But the collapse against Bangladesh tells a different story. They seemed to have not learned from their past mistakes. 
Poor shot selections, poor strike rotations, and a lack of consistency highlights the batting weaknesses of Nepal. Top-order failing to make maximum use of powerplay is one of the characters Nepal should look to correct.
Despite setbacks, the fighting spirit of the Nepali team against the better-ranked sides and the unwavering support of Nepali cricket fans drew the eyeballs of the cricketing world.
As the youngest team at the T20 World Cup 2024, there is plenty to look forward to from the Nepali team. 

Most of the players of the Nepali team, including Captain Rohit Paudel, took to cricket to watch Nepal play in the 2014 World Cup. 21-year-old Paudel is the youngest captain among the 20 teams participating in the World Cup. Sompal Kami is the only player from the current squad who was also part of the historic 2014 team.
Being a young team, experience is what is lacking in the Nepali team. 

The inexperience caught up with Nepali batters, as they failed to cope with the pressure when they needed to hold their nerves most. They were so close to the biggest upset and historic win against the Test sides but slipped the match away from their hands. 

It was, however, a testament to Nepal’s growing competitiveness and its ability to challenge the strongest team. Their competitiveness against South Africa and Bangladesh has proved Nepal belongs to the global stage along with the best sides in the world, as put up by Skipper Paudel. 

But Nepal has to work on their batting skills and learn to handle pressure situations if they have to play regularly on the global stage. More match exposures against the test sides are needed to overcome all the shortcomings. Let’s hope the cricket administration body works on managing more matches against full-member nations so that the Nepali team sees growth and improvement in the future.

(Joshi is Associate Editor at TRN.) 


Pramod Joshi
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