Kathmandu: Nepal was under pressure after UAE set a target of 176 runs to reach the T20 World Cup. Kushal Bhurtel, who was watching from the other end, got cold in his mind after Asif Sheikh and Lokesh Bam got out in the first over.
Because Nepal understood that it would be easier to cross the target of 175 if Ashif and Kushal played 6/7 overs. But after Lokesh was also dismissed along with Ashif, Kushal got the responsibility to lift Nepal’s innings along with Dipendra Singh Airy.
“After Lokesh and Ashif were out, we reached the back foot,” said Kushal Bhurtel, chief batsman of the Nepali team, who finished third in the T20 World Cup Global Qualifier ‘A’. When Dipendra came, it was said that if two people reached 15/16 overs, they could win. ‘
With a century against the Philippines and unbeaten against Canada, the skilled UAE could not last even three overs. He was out for only 7 runs. Dipendra, who lasted for 13 overs, scored the highest 38 runs, but Nepal lost by 68 runs.
No member of the Nepali team wants to remember that moment when they had a bad day in front of the World Cup. But so far they have not forgotten. Kushal says, “The same game went bad throughout the tournament, we lost the whole tournament.”
The competition was organized in Oman by dividing the 8 teams of Qualifier ‘A’ into two groups. Nepal in Group B did not have to work hard to beat Oman, Philippines and Canada. In all three games, Nepal did not allow the opposition to cut the total of 100 runs. But the same game went wrong, which had to be won.
This not only stopped Nepal’s World Cup journey but also the performance of Kushal, who made his T20 debut last April. Kushal, who was out for 5 runs with Oman in the group stage, had scored an unbeaten 104 against the Philippines. He also became the third player to score a century in T20 Internationals. He scored an unbeaten 34 in the third match against Canada. After losing to UAE in the semi-finals, Kushal played an unbeaten 55-run half-century against Oman in the match for third place.
Kushal, who hit four consecutive fifties in the tri-nation series involving Malaysia and the Netherlands in April, has surpassed the record of former captain Paras Khadka. Kushal has completed 1 century and 5 half-centuries. He added 498 runs in 11 innings of T20 Internationals and his average is 71. “Personally, my performance is fine, but our main goal was to qualify for the World Cup. Unable to reach the World Cup, all other happiness faded away.
If Nepal had reached the T20 World Cup, I think the value of its performance would have been different. After all, Nepal, which played T20 World Cup for the first time in 2014, has failed to get selected since then. If he had reached the World Cup this time, Kushal’s performance would not have been forgotten. “It was the most important game in the history of the Nepal cricket team. “It simply came to our notice then. Whoever played the game would have been different if I had won,” he said.
Batting did not work, bowling earned respect
Before going to Oman tour, it was claimed that Nepal’s batting had improved. This may be based on the performance of the trilateral series held at the home ground in April. Before the World Cup qualifiers, Oman, UAE and Ireland had already tested Nepal’s batting during the four-nation series. Batting did not help in any of the games of the selection competition. Instead, Oman’s pitch showed a superb bowling performance. Nepal’s bowling attack was impressive in all the games except the semi-final against UAE. In no game did the opposition cross the 100-run mark.
Dhammika Prasad of the Sri Lankan team came as the bowling advisor for the Global Qualifiers. His efforts are an analysis of Nepal’s bowling skills. ‘Dhammika sir came and bowled well. He used to teach who would bowl in which position. There was no special arrangement for batting, ”said Kushal. But all kinds of counselors are needed, everything from fitness trainers. ‘
Regarding the weakness of the batting side in the opening, Kushal says, “Ashif and I could not play as we were playing. We didn’t play much in the Prime Minister’s Cup and closed training. We had to take 6/7 overs. The same thing happened with UAE. In the beginning we both got out.
Corona infection and injury
Before leaving for Oman, Kushal contracted a corona during the Prime Minister’s Order National Twenty20 held at the Tribhuvan Cricket Ground. Nepal Police could not play the semi-final and final. However, based on his performance in the group stage, he was selected as the best batsman. After Corona recovered, he returned to closed training and underwent a skilled groin injury. Due to this problem, Kushal could not play the first two games of the four-nation series.
Although there were no serious injuries, it was difficult to run while fielding and taking runs. “I can’t say I wasn’t fit after the loss, but I decided to play despite some problems. “It’s a duty to play for the country after wearing the national jersey,” Kushal added.
First-century in T20
Earlier, former captains Paras Khadka and Gyanendra Malla had scored centuries for Nepal. Kushal, who became the third Nepali player to score a century in T20I by striking a century against the Philippines, said that he scored a century while batting with a good run rate.
“Every player’s goal is to score a century. We were prepared to beat the Philippines by a wide margin. Because run rate was important. Anyway, we had set a target of 200 runs, ”said Kushal.
‘Team unity is not a problem’
There was a big ‘earthquake’ in Nepali cricket ahead of the World Cup. After the Nepal Cricket Association (NCA) disciplined four cricketers, including captain Gyanendra Malla and vice-captain Dipendra Singh Airy, there were two distinct factions in the Nepali team. Gyanendra was removed and Sandeep Lamichhane was made the new captain. In Oman, Sandeep captained the national team for the first time. Trainers were also given new contracts. According to Kushal, that dispute has now become history. He said that there is no problem in the team.
“There is no problem in the team now. “We are all playing in unison,” he said. There are no factions in the team right now. ‘
Kushal, Sandeep, Arif Sheikh and Dipendra Singh Airy, who played in the U-19 World Cup in 2016, are now key members of the senior team. Among them, Sandeep has got the captaincy from this time. “Sandeep was the new captain, but the experienced players Gyanendra Dai, Sharad Dai and Dipendra were teaching him experience and knowledge. It must have been difficult for him too! ‘Kushal said,’ I was with the elder. Pubudu Sir also did not allow much burden to be borne. ‘
Nepal is currently preparing for the ODI series. Nepal’s goal is to maintain the ODI status by performing well in the World Cricket League Two. Kushal says, “Before the next T20 World Cup in 2024, we are working hard with the idea of maintaining the ODI recognition of 2023 and making it even higher.” I want to play in the ODI World Cup. The goal is to raise the score table by saving ODI recognition. ‘
Photo: Shankar Giri