Khadka prepares for 'real journey'
Paras Khadka, Nepal's captain, has spoken many sage words about his team and the development of cricket in their home country during the World T20. After they had secured a first ever win over Afghanistan in this format, capping an outstanding showing at their maiden global tournament, Khadka said "the real journey" begins now.
A tense, nine-run win, sealed in the last over, eliminated their Associate rivals Afghanistan and kept alive slim hopes of reaching the second round until a nervous Bangladesh did enough to hold off Hong Kong's chase. All of Nepal's bowlers either took wickets or restricted runs in another all-round team effort but it was two high-pressure catches by Khadka as Afghanistan threatened to come back that caught the eye. "I had to take them, I had no other choice," he said.
Nepal's rise through the game's lower echelons has captured the imagination, providing an example of what Associates can do in the manner of Ireland and Afghanistan before them. Short-term success does not guarantee continued progress, however - as the decline of Kenya after reaching the semi-finals of the 2003 World Cup attests - and Khadka said that there remained much work to be done in developing the game.
"The two wins in this tournament means a lot to us. Like I said before the tournament - we came here to compete. We have always tried to win every game that we have played for our country. It will always give us a great boost moving forward and push us to do better as well as have great impact on the youngsters who are coming up and wants to take cricket.
"This was the first time we qualified and managed to win two games. So it is a great achievement by itself which we are taking back home. But now the real journey begins. We have to do the home work and start again from the beginning and put the structure right back home and try to produce better results in future."
A blow to their hopes came only in January, when they lost all four of their group games at the World Cup Qualifier in New Zealand. The top four teams in that competition, along with Ireland and Afghanistan who had already secured World Cup berths, were either granted or maintained ODI status. There is also uncertainty over Nepal's T20 international status. The ICC decided to make all World T20 games full internationals but it has previously been linked to ODI status; a decision on whether to decouple the two has yet to be made by the ICC.
"I think it's something you should ask the ICC, with the globalisation of the game," Khadka said. "I cannot comment on the ODI status, unfortunately we had this 50-over World Cup Qualifier but we couldn't perform well there. We will take it slowly. Of course we want to be an ODI-playing nation but then again it is upon the ICC and the world's cricket structure. I hope we can push ourselves to perform well in any game that we play."
None the less, Nepal's win over Afghanistan gave them another memory to treasure. Khadka praised the bowling of Jitendra Mukhiya, whose 3 for 18 was vital in puncturing a powerful batting line-up, but it was the captain who appeared at Sompal Kami's shoulder with some calming words during the final over, when Ashgar Stanikzai was threatening to hit the 24 required all by himself. He preferred to talk about the chance his team had grabbed, rather than his own contribution.
"I think we should forget the catches. We have won the match. We are pretty pleased. We have always been trying to push ourselves to do better. We have been playing against Afghanistan for a very long time and they are a very good team and we know that. So to beat them you have to take every chance and score a decent amount of runs and back it up by good bowling. So we managed to do all the three today. So it is like when you do things right there are moments - the key moments and we managed to grab those chances."
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here