If you were to visit Tribhuvan University Grounds these days, you could see Nepali cricketers, led by captain Paras Khadka, in practice drills. They are busy in preparation for the SAARC Under-25 Twenty20 Cricket, which Maldives will host.
As the boys look sprightly during the net sessions, a rumor that yours truly heard this week comes as a flash. The story is: Recently, President of Cricket Association of Nepal, Binay Raj Pandey called Paras Khadka for a meeting. Paras sent a message saying he would meet the new President of CAN, as the change of guards is likely.
The truth in the story cannot be verified and hence should be called a rumor. But the anecdotal reference gives you a rough sketch of behind the scenes in Nepali cricket. We’ve heard of Nepal cricket skipper’s dissatisfaction over CAN’s handling of cricketers, and sometimes they’ve been justified too.
Even if the story mentioned above is rejected completely, what cannot be undermined is that CAN has not been able to hold elections for a new executive committee. Pandey ascended to the throne five years ago, and has been time and again been told to hold elections, especially after Yubraj Lama became Member Secretary of the National Sports Council.
The scene is fast heating, as Pandey tries to take stock of what his team has done during their tenure. And we cannot forget the division within the executive committee due to political appointment of some members.
Rumor mill also has it – mentioned to this scribe on the condition of keeping it off-the-record – that a certain section of present CAN executive committee members lobbied for a politically affiliated head of the cricket body. Their logic was that they already have a team, and the team can handle cricket even if the chief is a politician. Logic seems right. One person cannot just do everything. He needs a team to accomplish things. A good team, to be precise…
The worry is not the logic, but the division within the so called ‘guardians’ of cricket. The worry is, their lobby is getting stronger. The worry is, there are some politicos from the ruling party who are providing these lobbyists with fodder, and incentive.
In a recent meeting, Rumesh Ratnayake, Development Officer of ACC, told the writer of these columns, “The pace of growth of cricket in Nepal in last decade hasn’t been what we expected. We thought it would go at 70 miles per hour but it was at 20.”
Now Rumesh was a fast bowler as a cricketer and his love with speed can be understood. But the gap in expectation and results has been worrisome. Ratnayake said, “At a point we thought Nepal could achieve Test status, not only ODI.”
Somehow, the custodians for past half a decade have to realize they’ve fallen short on promises. Half a decade ago, Pandey was labeled a savior for Nepali cricket. Now, he looks a sorry figure, with his comrades fast disappearing.
But what should also be remembered is that present team inherited virtually empty coffers when they took over and now CAN balance could read anywhere between 70-90 million rupees. While the failings are listed, the achievements also have to be accounted.
One cannot deny the change needed to modernize Nepali cricket. But the change cannot be whimsical, which is what may happen, given the stance taken by various players in sports right now. Too much of political interest is not likely to help the sector. We’ve already seen that with the executive committee headed by Pandey, which was for most of its tenure, split into half.
(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 22nd October, 2011)