Khadka seeks better domestic set-up
Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain, has urged the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) to utilise its geographical proximity to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and endeavour to introduce the national team into the domestic circuits of the neighbouring Test-playing nations. According to Khadka, playing stronger sides in other domestic competitions will go a long way in helping the country's cricketers improve, especially given Nepal's domestic cricket structure that is restricted only to limited-overs tournaments.
Khadka cited the example of teams like Scotland, Ireland and Netherlands, who had benefited from playing cricket in England. In India, too, the Duleep Trophy has seen the participation of guest teams like the Bangladesh Cricket Board XI, Zimbabwe Cricket Union President's XI, Sri Lanka A and the England Lions in previous years.
"Nepal is located so close to countries like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka and we must make sure that we get as much help as possible from these countries," Khadka said. "The only way to improve is by playing competitive cricket against good cricketers."
Interestingly, Tarini Bikram Shah, the acting president of CAN had earlier pointed out that: "During the recently concluded meeting of the Asian Cricket Council in Kuala Lumpur, N Srinivasan, the outgoing president of the ACC, urged member boards to commit to domestic cricket and develop strong relations with neighbouring boards and coordinate with them for the development of the game within their own countries."
Calling India the "Mecca of cricket", Khadka suggested CAN could capitalise on the recent T20 status to build relations with neighbouring countries and put in place systems to secure the cricketing future of the country. One of the key areas of concern is improving domestic cricket. The current structure in Nepal follows club, district and regional progression and nearly 12 teams participate at the national level. The competitions, however, feature only one-dayers and T20s. While the semi-finals and finals of major competitions were played over two days in the past, that trend has also stopped.
Khadka acknowledged that breaking into the national team was therefore easier for players like him, who had risen through the junior ranks with age-group cricket. In addition to the lack of exposure to longer formats, youngsters outside the age-group system also had to cope with infrastructure challenges, such as the shortage of turf wickets, especially in regions outside the capital city of Kathmandu. All these factors, Khadka said, have constricted the growth of a player pool for the national squad.
"Selection is based on a single tournament, broken up into a 50-over and 20-over leg. Players have only about three to four games in a year to prove themselves and make a case for their national selection," he said. "In all these years, there has been no development in the pitches, ground or training facilities. For all these reasons, Nepal has essentially been forced to select the national team from a pool of 25-30 players. There should have been a much larger pool to choose from considering the number of enthusiastic followers and players that there are in this country."
An outspoken individual, Khadka has also been at the center of player efforts to better cricketing infrastructure in Nepal. He was part of the player boycott that took place in April this year soon after the World T20. The boycott, which had occurred over issues with CAN, was called off after the formation of an advisory committee of which Khadka was also a member.
Khadka had recently threatened to quit international cricket if the uncertainty surrounding Pubudu Dassanayake's contract as coach continued. Khadka said he was not concerned about the consequences of such candour and said his focus was to work and train hard. "Due to the indifferent administration, we, as cricketers, feel that it is our responsibility to play on the field as well as off it so that we can get the right people into the system. There is enormous potential in this country and it is important to ensure that the game is run by people with a vision."
Khadka does, however, believe that the situation is not all grim and points out that he can see the interest in his country. He points out that he can see more children taking to gully cricket, games being followed live online in offices and among students. During the World T20 giant screens had been erected to watch the national team playing live, which has given him optimism. "There is a solution to everything in life," he says, and wants Nepal cricket to find their answers.
Bishen Jeswant is a stats sub editor at ESPNcricinfo. @bishen_jeswant