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Alan Gardner in Chittagong
March 19, 2014
Nepal have won hearts and minds and a legion of new fans at the World T20. But that alone won't help them in trying to become more competitive on a consistent basis. The need for better infrastructure, in particular more pitches, is one that can only be solved through increased financial support and, despite impressive displays during the qualifying round, the immediate boost to the Cricket Association of Nepal's bank balance will be negligible.
Nepal could still reach the second round but they require Bangladesh to take a swan dive from their perch on top of Group A. While a victory in the Super 10 stage would be worth US$40,000, there is no prize money on offer before then. Qualifying for the World T20 would have improved Nepal's "scorecard" - the means by which their ICC funding is determined - as well as providing them with valuable exposure but it has not presented CAN with a pot of gold.
Like Afghanistan, their final opponents who have been given support by the PCB, Nepal require as much assistance as they can get. Sharad Vesawkar, one of a core of talented home-grown players, said the team were basically "amateurs" and, despite their popularity back home, there are significant challenges in trying to spread the game to more inaccessible parts of the country. But it does make the sense of achievement all the more powerful.
"We're all born and brought up in Nepal and know each other very well, having played together from age-group cricket," Vesawkar said. "Unlike some other teams we don't have any expats playing for us. That ensures that we have very good team spirit. We're Nepali and proud to play for Nepal. We're amateur cricketers with limited facilities, so to be able to come here and give our best is something to be proud of."
Touring other countries and gaining experience of the conditions is also difficult for the Associates nations, although the ICC do arrange tournaments all around the world. Nepal, in their first match against a Test side, were not embarrassed by a pumped-up Bangladesh on Tuesday, although Vesawkar said the team were "not used to these kind of conditions". The extra pace and bounce in Chittagong has required some adjusting to but they will face no respite against Afghanistan, a team who have had the wood over them in recent years.
"We always like to play against Afghanistan," he said. "In 2008 we were neck and neck, but they suddenly rose to the occasion and we were left behind a little bit. We tried to catch up and hopefully we can do well against them. We are good friends off the field. We play hard on the field, but when we meet at the hotel we're in each other's rooms all the time. We're just playing at the higher level together now. We know them, how they play, and it's the same for them."
The Associate nations rubbing along together in the shadows of the game may be good for camaraderie but it ought to be possible to provide more tangible reward.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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