Barely a month after a historic performance at the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh, the Nepali cricket team once again made headlines. Led by captain Paras Khadka, the disgruntled team announced last Thursday that it would be boycotting the one-day national cricket tournament as a protest against the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). Among the cricketers’ 10 grievances were unpaid allowances, poor cricketing infrastructure, restrictions on private endorsement deals and most importantly, CAN’s shoddy administration. After initial talks failed to make headway, the cricketers, CAN and the Ministry of Youth and Sports reached an agreement yesterday to form a five-member planning and monitoring committee to provide direction to CAN, and to address other demands.
The cricket team’s grievances were undoubtedly legitimate. The national team performed so well at the ICC Twenty20, not because of CAN’s support, but through sheer perseverance and hard work. What is shameful is that the team was not even been paid their allowance for participating in two World Cup qualifiers and the Twenty20 World Cup. Furthermore, CAN had promised to set aside $50,000 out of the $200,000 International Cricket Council award for participating in the World Cup for the players, but even this amount was never disbursed.
The money aside, at the heart of the cricketers’ protest was the fact that Nepal’s cricket sector is woefully mismanaged. CAN, the governing body, is bloated with political appointees and bureaucrats who have little or no knowledge of the sport. Friendly international matches for the national team, and domestic tournaments where new young talent can be scouted, are few and far between. Promises to build infrastructure and provide more support to cricket are vague and never followed up. It is inadequacies like these that are feeding the fear that the current batch of excellent cricketers might just be Nepal’s last. The national players are getting on in years and there is a significant lack of bench strength to replace them.
While it is good that the strike is over, institutional shortcomings must immediately be addressed if Nepal is to have a future in cricket. First, CAN needs an overhaul. The governing body must be run by people who know the game and are passionate about it. A capable CAN would also be able to take advantage of Nepal’s close proximity to four Test-playing powerhouses—India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Regular ‘friendlies’ with these teams would go far in providing Nepali cricketers with exposure to world-class cricket. Furthermore, there is much Nepal could learn from Sri Lanka, which only got Test-status in 1981 but managed to transform into a major player in a decade. Sri Lankan cricket flourished in the 90s due to heavy government investment and the establishment of a number of robust domestic leagues. Setting up similar leagues, perhaps initially on a smaller scale, could help Nepal build a much-needed pool of talented young players to replace the current golden batch.
Posted on: 2014-04-18 08:43