The craze for cricket is not really surprising. Nepal has had as ancient link to the British as Indians. It goes back to collaboration in the 18th century, the Anglo-Nepalese War, and the treaty of Sugauli in 1816. Unlike the Indians, this small nation never came under the British rule, but there were plenty of interactions with the Empire.
According to the recent speech of Andy Sparkes, the British Ambassador to Nepal, “We chose not to colonize, but to partner and influence. We were Nepal’s only such partner between 1816 and 1951.” The statement may be cloaked in muffling diplomatic niceties, but the British influence was plenty and the treaty of perpetual peace and friendship of 1923 played an important role in the nation’s course in the 20th century. And of course, perhaps no other ally supplied military help to the British more enduringly than the Gurkhas.
Cricket, however, did not filter into the country through the regiments. The game was first introduced by the ruling Rana’s in the 1920s, as they returned to Nepal after their British education. The roots were aristocratic, and The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) was originally formed in 1946 for the ruling classes. The active sporting collaboration with the British remained limited mainly to mountaineering.
However, with the democratic movements of the 1950s, the general populace got a taste of the game. In 1961 the CAN became a part of the National Sports Council. The sport remained limited in and around Kathmandu for several decades, but with the rest of the subcontinent fast becoming the beating heart of the global sport, Nepal could soon feel the pulsating excitement generated by the willow striking the leather. The country’s rise through the international ranks has been quick. It was in the 1980s that the game spread to the other parts of the land. In 1988, the country became an affiliate member of the ICC. The first time Nepal was featured in Wisden’s ‘Cricket Round the World’ section was in 1992. And four years later, they became an associate member of the ICC and played their first tournament, the Pepsi Asian Cricket Council Trophy in Kuala Lumpur. They won against Japan and Brunei.
The last few years has seen giant steps taken by the national team. Between 2010 and 2013, they have moved from Division Five to Division Two, and have now made it to the ICC World T20 2014.
It is not fair to expect wonders from a team from the Himalayas that is still finding its way around the foothills of international cricket. However, there remains a fair chance that the bubbling enthusiasm of the side will win quite a few hearts during the tournament.
They are a very young side, whose ebullience is palpable in the way they go about their job in the field. They are a bunch of excellent fielders, and this is one aspect of the game that can take the attention of the world for starters.
It is only reasonable to expect that the batting and bowling skills will discover plenty of rough edges that can be rounded only with sufficient time and experience at the highest level. But, there is talent aplenty in the side.
However, the spirit remains indomitable, the hearts full of hope and youthful ambition. The zeal and ardor of the young players move them to invocations and patriotic songs, tears and prayer beads, euphoria and ecstasy. There is no doubt that whatever the result; Paras Khadka’s team will be out there to do their best for the country.