Cricket on a sticky wicket?

Somesh

If you are a cricket fan and feeling bad with the news of Asian Cricket Council slapping 10 percent penalty on the capital and development grant forNepal, you should probably know that the worst is definitely not over.

If you think Cricket Association of Nepal was dim-witted for failing to submit the financial report within the deadline, you’d probably think twice before using the word dim-witted. For, there could be worse news in the offing for cricket fans.

At one point of time, not too long ago, many would have thought that Nepali cricket will run into problems due to political interference. Well, it has. And it doesn’t need a genius to deduce that politics is the reason behind it, even if it is not directly visible.

Sixth National Games is less than a stone’s throw away and cricket is a part of it. Normally, that should be a joy for cricket fans. But there is a slight anomaly. Players from national team will play in the championship. Fair? The answer will be a big NO, if you know it is to be played on matting wickets. Matting wickets? Are you crazy? Now, anybody with general cricket knowledge will tell you, matting wickets are a thing of past.

Add to that,Nepalplays ICC World Twenty20 Qualifiers – the highest level we’ve ever sent our team to – starting March 13 in UAE. International matches are not played on such surface anymore. Experts tell you playing on mat increases injury scare to the players. After playing on mat, how do you expect our players to be able to faceHong Kong,Afghanistan,NetherlandsandCanada, plus a few others. Again, it doesn’t take a genius to deduce what National Games could mean to cricket.

Recently, a fellow journalist asked a CAN official, why such short sightedness. And the nonchalant answer was that CAN had to bow down to pressure from National Sports Council. But, playing in Mahendranagar and that too on matting wickets? Doesn’t sound good at all…

Three weeks ago, Narayan Karki, curator, was called to make pitches in Mahendranagar. Karki either has to have supernatural powers to prepare a proper pitch, or this is just hogwash from the powers that be, in cricket.

Could Cricket Association not convince Sports Council that the matches could be played inKathmandu, if there was such desperate need. After all, Shooting event of National Games is going to be held here, due to lack of infrastructure in Dhangadhi. Likewise, Golf is to be played in Pokhara. Why such desperation to have cricket in a place where there is virtually no infrastructure. If Football could be excepted – for the same reason of preparation – why not cricket? If Cricket Association has no concern with players’ welfare and result of international games in mind, why is it formed at all?

When Tanka Angbuhang became President of CAN, some enthusiasts thought he could forge better understanding between CAN and NSC, as he and Yuvraj Lama, both were from the same political party. But this case shows there is hardly any understanding between the two and it’s a story of CAN following diktats. Cricket Association does have some people who’ve played cricket to a level and they should have had enough wisdom to suggest that playing on mat would not help preparation for ICC World T20 Qualifiers. Is it that they don’t have enough clout to influence decisions? Or is it that they remained to keep quiet for the ‘favor’ they received while getting reappointment in CAN?

Whatever be the case, the most worried man in Nepali cricket would be Coach Pubudu Dassanayake. Not only would he be worried about players’ injury but also be thinking where on earth did he come. According to his plans, this was the time his wards would be focused on strength training and practicing match scenarios.

Couple of months ago, in these columns, yours truly had mentioned Dassanayake saying, “If everything goes according to the plan, we might qualify for the World Cup.” Wonder what he must be thinking now. For now, all his plans have been thrown into bin, by CAN.And the reasons – it appears – are not cricket.

(PS: The write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 25th February, 2012)

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