From Kandy, Sri Lanka to Hangzhou, China,the men’s national cricket team of Nepal’s globe- trotting continues.
Nepal flew into China to participate in the 19th Asian Games cricket championship very soon.
The competition will be played in the Twenty20 international format.Cricket makes a comeback after 8 years since it was dropped in the 2018 Asian Games held in Indonesia.
It may be recalled that cricket was included in the 2010 Asian Games in China for both men and women for the first time.
The men’s competition is a 14-team affair.
Likewise,the women’s tournament will be contested by nine teams.
Since the women’s national team did not meet the criteria,the National Sports Council decided not to send them to the Asian Games.
With the presence of cricket’s heavyweights India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka , Bangladesh and Afghanistan,the competition is expected to be intense and highly competitive.
Nine unseeded teams have been divided into three groups of three teams each.The group winners will advance to the round of eight and join the big five.
Seeded teams India ,Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan have been given a direct entry into the quarterfinals based on their higher ranking.
Sri Lanka and Pakistan are the men’s and women’s defending champions respectively.
Asian champions India will be making its debut at the Asian Games.They have opted for a second string team(Under-23) for the competition.
This will be Nepal’s third appearance in the Asian Games.Although they went medal-less,they were able to advance to the quarterfinals on both occasions.
Nepal find themselves in a relatively comfortable matchup against Mongolia and Maldives in Group A .
They must top the group to reach the last eight.Against the relatively unfancied opponents,Nepal is expected to notch up easy wins,
The team picked for the tournament is virtually the same squad that played in the Asia Cup recently.That means, they are in full strength.
Team Nepal plays against unknown Mongolia in the opener on September 27th.
Given the strengths and experiences,in my estimation it should be a cakewalk for Nepal.
That said,they should not be overconfident and make the mistake of underestimating the opponent.
They cannot afford to become laid back, and have a casual approach to the match.At no cost the opposition should be taken lightly.
It is important for them to be at their best and playing up to the expectations they hold for themselves.They will need a good start with an impressive victory
Nepal’s second encounter in the group is against Maldives that has been playing international cricket for quite some time now.Contrary to expectations,however, they have made little progress.
They do pose some threat to the Nepali outfit.Against them they must take a more circumspect approach.
Advancing to round of eight is the immediate goal for Nepal.Both matches serve as tune-ups for them ahead of the knockout stage provided they make it through to the quarterfinals.
The Asian Games is another big opportunity for Team Nepal to prove themselves on the grand stage.
-By Sushil Thapa,Fairfax,VA