Merely hours after their reinstatement by the ICC, Nepal and its fans were dealt a blow when Paras Khadka resigned from the national team’s captaincy.

Khadka took to Twitter to break the news, explaining that there needs to be a “fresh start and a committed vision with everyone involved.”

Fans and pundits can only speculate how a Nepal national team in 2020 and beyond could compete with both a stable body and the best captain the country has seen. The longest serving skipper in Associate cricket before his resignation, Khadka took over with Nepal languishing in World Cricket League in 2009. Less than ten years later, Nepal reached ODI status at a World Cup Qualifier.

Daniel Beswick spoke with 91.3 Sport FM on Thursday about T20WCQ and the reinstatement of Nepal and Zimbabwe. (Podbean link)

Suspension lifted

Nepal jumped back onto a path of progress this week after its three-year suspension was lifted, with the ICC satisfied that cricket in the county can operate without government interference. Nepali fans were left to wait longer than expected for news due to extensive deliberation and other agenda points in Dubai, though rejoiced as the positive news was shared to social media.

In a press release made public late on Monday evening, ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar outlined the conditions of Nepal’s reinstatement.

“Given the progress made in Nepal, a transition plan will now be developed for the Cricket Association of Nepal to support full compliance with Associate Membership criteria, which will also involve controlled funding.”

ICC meeting announcing Nepal
Cricket’s governing body released details from their meetings late on Monday. (ICC)

Nepal’s new board was elected at the end of September, in a process overseen by an independent panel. Up to 27 points of conjecture prevented the country’s reinstatement at one point, though meticulous work between the ICC, the Nepal Advisory Group and the nation’s government meant a deal was struck.

While the joy was short-lived given Khadka’s resignation, it means a fresh start can take place in Nepal. Between a new captain, CAN’s new central working committee of 17 members and the power of Nepal’s fanbase, new heroes need to stand tall. Ideas with little inhibition could harness the powers of Nepal’s unique standing in world cricket – an Associate member with easily the most fanatical support, attendances and attention.

Nepal
Nepal’s national team has been affected by the board’s turmoil. (ICC)

Reinstatement means the flow of funding from the ICC runs again – though the new board begin their tenure with the ICC controlling their spending. It’s a careful move taking steps in the right direction, as a prevention for falling into the same hole of three years ago.

As the potential for central playing contracts stabilizes proceedings at the top, domestic cricket can now strengthen underneath. Funding should bring a focus to building viable national competitions in several formats, nurturing the talent of players looking to push into the national team. Under-19 Nepali internationals too raw to be thrown into senior international cricket have the opportunity to cut their teeth, and dropped international players are able to audition to win their spots back.

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Unable to fix their flaws through time in the middle, little domestic cricket has doomed dozens of former Nepal internationals during Nepal’s struggles. Anil Mandal had little chance to re-claim his spot, and was only thrown a lifeline after Subash Khakurel was injured during the Everest Premier League in 2017. Cruelly, Khakurel experienced a similar fate. Franchise T20 cricket has been a saving grace for Nepal’s cricketers, though it cannot single-handedly fill the void of a long domestic season.

EPL will continue to augment local Nepal cricket scene

As the Managing Director of the Everest Premier League, Aamir Akhtar picked up the slack in Nepal’s time of need. Providing players cricket to play and a stream of income. Aamir explains that a calendar of both board-run competitions and franchise leagues is the way forward.

“It’s a great relief but we need to understand it’s a great learning curve for our cricket administrators that things need to be done in the right way.

“It’s a privilege to have membership and we should not lose it again, nor should we tarnish it. I don’t think it’s going to be an easy job for the new cricket board to take over from now on.”

While playing down the role of the Everest Premier League’s role in keeping things together, Aamir thanked others involved in his project, as well as the ICC.

“In regards to the EPL playing a role during the tough times, I must say that we have always done a good job in terms of promoting cricket, in terms of reviving our domestic structure. At times it was very difficult to have a professional league.

“We have made things much bigger for Nepali cricket in our own little way and I hope that with the new CAN being formed it will be easier for us to operate in terms of legitimacy. But thanks to the ICC, they came in at the right time to give us a sanctioning of the league with made things easier”.

Aamir and the EPL were able to entice international players to the country, though the country’s reinstatement should ease tournament sanctioning and, in turn, facilitate the recruitment process. Nations may be attracted to tour the country also, though given there is more context in international cricket through the new World Cup 2023 qualifying path, matches may simply be tacked onto their home CWCL2 tri-series.

Nepal Paras Khadka
Paras Khadka will continue as a player after relinquishing the captaincy. (ICC)

Lucky not to experience the same fate as Zimbabwe, Nepal’s national team was able to compete internationally. In saying this, there is no doubt that the ban affected their on-field performance. Achieving One Day International Status at the World Cup Qualifier in 2018 was contrasted by failing to reach the T20 World Cup Qualifier. Falling to Singapore and Qatar at the Asian Qualifier, their stagnation was highlighted by under-performance.

Time to shine

Given the chance to govern themselves again, and with financial backing, it’s time the board show the same passion for Nepali cricket exhibited by its fans. The country has begged for its power-brokers to share the same ambition, and now it’s time to prove that progress and not personal financial gain is the top priority. In Nepal, there is a saying – that Elephants have two teeth: one for show, and one for eating.

For now though, appointing a permanent captain for the national team is first on the agenda. With no clear front-runner for the role, fans wait with bated breath to see who will have the entire nation on their shoulders.

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