Packed between the peaks of Himalayas and being a home to the tallest peak in the world, Nepal is known for its natural beauty and the adventure it provides. But in recent years, it has crafted a unique niche for itself and found new adventures in the world of cricket. While it continues to be a hub for tourism and known for its rich cultural heritage, its rise in the game also adds an extra dimension of excitement. From being nowhere in the start of the century to becoming a rising member of the Asian Cricket Council and on its path to facing India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup in the coming days.
In this chapter by ZAP, let’s look at the inspiring journey of the Nepal Cricket Team, exploring the highs and lows and the passion that people in the nation have for the sport.
History of Nepal Cricket:
Nepal, in its entire history, because of its history was never colonized by the British and never had a major western influence on their culture. In the book History of Nepal, edited by Daniel Wright is a line it says:
"Attempts have been made at various times by their tutors to get the young men to play cricket and other games, but such amusements are thought degrading".
Cricket in Nepal in the early times only had the involvement of the elites, mainly the ruling Rana Family. The game started to catch on with the general population after the Revolution of 1951, which brought democracy. The Cricket Association of Nepal joined the National Sports Council in 1961 in an effort to spread the sport throughout the country. The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) was established in 1946 with the goal of popularizing the sport throughout the population. The game was able to spread outside of Kathmandu in the 1980s thanks to improvements to the country's communications and transportation systems, and in 1988 Nepal was admitted as an Affiliate Member of the International Cricket Council. Early in the 1990s, a significant development programme was launched, leading to the creation of regional and district competitions as well as increasing school-based development approach.
Credit: ESPN Cricinfo
The sport immediately gained popularity among the locals, and there were so many teams participating in the various tournaments that restrictions on the number of teams in some competitions had to be put in place until more facilities could be set up in the mid-1990s. Among ICC Associate Members, the nation now boasts one of the strongest fan bases.
Nepal Cricket Association:
Credit: Wikimedia Images
Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) did a super job since it’s formation and the country continued to have a steady growth in the sport. But, ICC suspended the CAN in 2016 as a result of unwarranted government intervention, although it was later reinstated in October 2019. Nepal’s youth development program began to show results when national under-19 cricket team finishes eighth-place performance in the Under-19 World Cup in 2000. Later on in the year, the senior team put on their best performance to date as they advanced to the ACC Trophy semifinals before falling to Hong Kong in Sharjah. They competed in the ICC World Cup Qualifiers for the first time the following year. The constant efforts of the CAN showed for the very first time when they won their first major competition, defeating the United States in the Division Five final of the 2010 ICC World Cricket League, which took place in Kathmandu in February 2010. A recent achievement was when Nepal won 11 out of their 12 ODI games and got a chance to play in the ICC ODI World Cup qualifiers alongside West Indies and Sri Lanka. Even ICC appreciated this rise of the tiny Asian nation with a post on Instagram, congratulating the team for their achievement. This year, they are even back into the Asia Cup to play against the giants, India and Pakistan, which be a great exposure for the youth in the team.
Nepal National Cricket Team Players:
The Nepal cricket team’s success is built upon by exceptional talents that played the pillars for the nation. Players like Paras Khadka, Gyanendra Malla, Sandeep Lamichanne and Rohit Paudel are some of the biggest talents that have come out of the country. Sandeep Lamichhane also played in the biggest T20 leagues, like for the Indian Premier League, for multiple teams in the Big Bash League and in the Caribbean Premier League. Local cricket academies and training programs have been instrumental in identifying and nurturing young talents.
Nepal Cricket Team Captain:
In 2022, the CAN appointed ZAP Athlete Rohit Paudel as the new captain of the national team succeeding Rohit Paudel. He had began his captaincy career with 3 match 2022/23 ODI home series against United Arab Emirates, which Nepal won 2-1. He even got Nepal qualified for the Asia Cup in 2023, one of the nations biggest achievements in recent time. Paudel had previously played as the captain of the U-19 cricket team and served as vice-captain of the senior team.
Nepal Cricket Stadiums:
Credit: Wikimedia Images
Two significant cricket grounds in Nepal host international matches. One is the Tribhuvan University International Cricket Ground in Kirtipur, Kathmandu. It has 20,000 seats, is one of the largest cricket stadiums in the country and has hosted ODIs since February 5, 2020 and T20Is since December 5, 2019. The Upper Mulpani Cricket Ground is the other venue, located in Kathmandu's Kageshwari-Manohara neighbourhood. Its first international match was played there on April 29, 2023, and it has a reduced capacity of 7,000.
T20 cricket format is one of the fastest growing formats and is one of the reason why the sport is growing in the nation. They gained their T20i status in 2014 and played their first ever match against Hong Kong in which they obliterated them. They did very well in the 2014 ICC T20 World Cup, but had a set back later. In 2015, the nation lost its status and missed the 2016 ICC World Twenty20. They gained this status back and has continued to play and shine in the format. The development of T20 leagues in Nepal injected a new lease of life into the sporting scene. Domestic players had a chance to play alongside some of the biggest foreign talents in leagues like the the Nepal T20 League and Everest Premier League (EPL).
Nepal Women's Cricket Team:
Credit: Online Khabar
Just like the men’s team is an inspiration to all sportspeople in the country, the women’s cricket team also has done wonders for the nation. They made their debut on the world stage in July 2007 in Malaysia at the ACC Women's Tournament. They have since actively competed in numerous international competitions. Samson Jung Thapa is the coach, and Rubina Chhetry is the team's captain at the moment. In April 2018, the ICC granted its members full Women's Twenty20 International (WT20I) status. The women’s side has since then played in multiple matches and tournament.
In Nepal, cricket is now more than simply a game; it is a passion that unites the country. The journey from modest beginnings to the world stage shows the passion of the player, administrators and most importantly, all the fans. Nepal's cricket journey has been one of resiliency and cohesion through difficulties. As the sport continues to evolve and it grows in the nation, we will see more heroes rise up and take the nation to the next level.