New Year, New Hopes…


The New Year has begun for sports sector in slightly unconventional way. Right on the second day of the brand new year, we saw an exchange of blows on a football pitch. Yes, don’t be surprised… A football pitch. If you witnessed the players in that exchange, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the players had one drink too many, while bidding adieu to the past year.
Some went on to call it undesirable, while some chose to ignore it. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no place for violence in sports. I’ve never ever been able to understand if there could be ‘desire’ for such a thing. It has to be condemned in the strongest of words, and actions. If your children want to be a football player in future and if they saw it, tell them this is exactly what they should avoid on a pitch, and off the pitch too. Hopefully, it was a one-off incident and we don’t see it replicated in future. Five red cards in a match involving top teams cannot be a matter of pride for any.
A few days before footballers – along with them their clubs and their governing authority – shamed ‘the beautiful game’ in a beautiful city called Pokhara, some cricketers were trying to showcase their talent.
Nepal’s cricket coach, Pubudu Dassanayake was on his mission to find new talent. He has, in a few months that he’s taken charge of the team, said that Nepal needs more players playing at the highest level. He witnessed some players at the camps held in Pokhara and Bhairahawa.
“From what I saw at the camps, the players look very promising,” Dassanayake says. “The good thing is, some of them have raw talent, which can be developed.” Now he wants to bring these players to the capital next week and have a separate camp for some of these players selected from the camp.
This could, perhaps be the shot-in-the-arm that Nepali cricket has been looking for. Having raw, promising talent being groomed at a camp will effectively increase the player pool for national selection. There is hardly any better sight in cricket than a raw fast bowler running in and bowling at full throttle or a young batsman cutting or pulling short balls with a gay abandon, without paying any respect to their opponents.
It should be noted here that Pubudu acquired a speed gun – machine that measures speed of the ball – when his wife was coming to Nepal from Canada. Now this doesn’t only showcase his commitment to Nepali cricket, but also tells us that we will be able to know exactly what speed our bowlers bowl at. We don’t have to talk about the relative speed of our bowlers anymore. The speed gun was used in these camps.
“The fastest bowler I found was clocking 75 miles an hour. And he was a raw talent,” Dassanayake says, “With a fitness regimen in place, he should be able to bowl at 80 mph.”
This means we could now have bowlers bowling at a lively pace, pushing the opposition on the backfoot, early on.
Interestingly, some players that were in the national scheme at some point, Akash Gupta, Antim Thapa and Dipesh Khatri have also been respotted for future. Akash, despite being a free flowing batsman, had been fed up of the system and had removed himself from reckoning. Now that these players have a chance to be back, there’s every possibility that more talents would be positive towards cricket. At the same time, those players who think national team is their birthright, may be shaken to perform. It’s always good to have healthy competition within the pool.
Plans are to have a separate bowlers’ camp and a tournament involving 50 best players of Nepal sometime later this month, followed by a trip to India for the team to play with local teams. Now it’s up to Cricket Association to see it as a cost, or an investment.
Whatever be the case, yours truly sees it as new hopes emerging in the New Year. The year, when we are to play in T20 World Cup Qualifiers…

(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 7th January, 2012)

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