Nepal's Vesawkar determined to overcome calamity
Over the next three-four days, all of Nepal's key cricketers arrive in New Delhi. Not just because the Indian capital is the most convenient city before proceeding to Dharamsala for their preparatory camp ahead of the World Twenty20 qualifier.
More importantly, the Nepal squad won't be able to board a flight to the UK for the World T20 qualifier without halting in New Delhi. The UK consulate in Kathmandu was one among many buildings to suffer major damage due to the earthquake on April 25. Nepal's cricketers will have to complete visa formalities at the consulate in New Delhi.
Sharad Vesawkar, one of the biggest names in Nepal cricket, was the first to reach New Delhi. The top-order batsman had to submit his passport to the consulate, after having spent the last fortnight in Mumbai.
Vesawkar is no stranger to Mumbai. His brother has been residing in the city for well over a decade. But this trip was different from all his previous ones. Three months ago, when Vesawkar came to Mumbai for his wedding, the family was in the mood to celebrate. But come May, things were different when he and his mother arrived in Mumbai.
"The kind of devastation we have seen back home had never been imagined by anyone. The earthquake has resulted in so much destruction that it was extremely difficult to think about cricket for the first fortnight or so," Vesawkar says, wearing his Cricket Association of Nepal jersey at a coffee shop in a Mumbai suburb.
Since Nepal's big assignment, the World T20 qualifier, was barely two months away, Vesawkar started training a couple of weeks after the April 25 earthquake. But it resulted in an injury. "Two days before the next big quake [on May 12], I was jogging on the streets and twisted my right ankle. It was so badly swollen that I couldn't even put my foot on the ground.
"I was in the house and had to run when I just couldn't. It was very scary. We managed to get on to the street and thankfully, there wasn't much damage to the house but during the rush, I ended up aggravating my ankle even more. So I decided to start the rehab by resting here in Mumbai."
The earthquake destroyed what little cricket infrastructure the country had. Featuring in the 2014 World Twenty20 was Nepal's biggest achievement on the international stage but the earthquake destroyed their only two "proper turf wickets". And he is not sure when the handful of games that used to be played - "not more than 10 to 15 matches in a year for national cricketers" - would resume.
"Thankfully, most cricketers in the national team and their families haven't suffered much. But when you see destruction all around you, cricket takes a backseat. It is the livelihood that you are bothered most about. And that's what happened with all of us."
The earthquake also coincided with what would have been the beginning of Nepal's preparations for the World T20 qualifier. After finishing fourth in the World Cricket League Division Two in January, Nepal didn't have any international commitments till the World T20 qualifier in July. The Cricket Association of Nepal had chalked out a two-month preparatory programme, which was to start in May. But the earthquake rendered the plan useless.
"Thankfully for us, the BCCI has offered a helping hand and Nepal cricket and Nepali people would always be grateful for their wholehearted gesture," says Vesawkar.
As he leaves to pack his bags for Delhi, Vesawkar assures that in July the Nepal players will not be bogged down. "I am sure the calamity has given us more strength to succeed against odds. We will emerge stronger and give our best.
"Having become the first from Nepal to appear in a world event of a team sport, it is our responsibility to qualify again. If we can do that, it will be some sort of a soothing balm for our countrymen."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo