Nepal make Asia Cup debut against Pakistan

Pakistan, the current number one One-Day International team, appear to be a clear favourite against the South Asian opponents.

Binod Pandey

Binod Pandey

The Kathmandu Post


Nepal players attend a training session ahead of the Asia Cup cricket match against Pakistan. PHOTO: CAN/THE KATHMANDU POST

August 30, 2023

KATHMANDU – Nepal will mark their debut in the Asia Cup when they vie in the inaugural match of the tournament against co-host Pakistan on Wednesday at the Multan Cricket Stadium in Punjab.

The 50-over format will be Nepal’s first meeting against cricket’s global giants at any format of the game. Nepal, who qualified for the tournament as the champions of the ACC Premier Cup in April and May, are drawn in Group ‘A’ with cricket powerhouse Pakistan and India. The other group comprises Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka.

Pakistan, the current number one One-Day International (ODI) team, appear to be a clear favourite against the South Asian opponents. Nepal, however, will be aiming for an upset against the home team. Nepal are in 15th place in the ODI rankings.

“We had not thought we would be playing against India and Pakistan, but we have got an opportunity, we respect that opportunity and try to give our best,” Nepal’s captain Rohit Paudel said before the team’s departure to Pakistan. “The whole world will be watching us and obviously we will try to give our best.”

Nepal’s coach Monty Desai has urged his players and Nepali supporters to celebrate their first ever meeting with big boys of cricket. “It’s an opportunity playing against full-member teams of cricket and we are walking into the unknown. I do understand we want to win against a full-member team and we are working very hard for that,” Desai said before leaving for Pakistan. Nepal have so far played three ODI games against full member teams—one each against Ireland, West Indies and Zimbabwe, all during this year’s World Cup qualifier and lost all of them.

He, however, said that he expects his players to “keep playing and keep fighting.” He has urged supporters to have patience and trust in the team. “We are trying to build something bigger together and it’s only a six month story,” he said, referring to Nepal’s fairytale run when they clinched 11 wins in the last 12 ODIs of the ICC World Cup League 2. “Enjoy those one-ball battles which we will win. We will win some phases, enjoy that part and if the process is in place, who knows what the outcome will be.”

Pakistan have won seven among 10 ODIs played in Multan and they have not lost a single match at the venue since 2008.

Nepal’s woes will be to adapt against Pakistan pace bowling spearheaded by Saheen Shah Afridi along with Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah, among others. Pakistan skipper Babar Azam is currently number one player in the ODI batter’s ranking while Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman are third and fifth in the rankings. They could pose a threat to Nepal’s bowling.

Unpredictable and inconsistent batting has been a major concern for Nepal. “But a different batter has stepped up against different opponents,” coach Desai said. Nepal could count on openers Kushal Bhurtel, Aarif Sheikh, captain Paudel, Kushal Malla and Dipendra Singh Airee, among others.

Leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane will spearhead Nepal’s bowling attack. Medium pacer Sompal Kami and spinner Lalit Rajbanshi along with all-rounder Airee and Jha are among Nepal’s key bowlers.

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