Round 5 of the CWC League 2 will see Nepal host its maiden ODIs as Oman and USA travel to Kathmandu from 5-12 February 2020.
Fans could be turned away at the Tribhuvan University Ground this week, with history in Kathmandu certain to draw capacity crowds.
Nepal gained ODI status at the World Cup Qualifier back in 2018, though the troubles associated with the previously suspended board and other hurdles have meant the team have focused on playing away from home.
2020 marks a rebirth of Nepali cricket in multiple ways. A new board, new captain and a new standard to uphold on the field, matched with a new standard of media coverage profiling it. Kantipur HD won the race to telecast Nepal’s tri-series, though India’s DSport waits in the wings to deliver the content so many Nepalis crave in this year’s Everest Premier League. All of this brings new pressures and expectations, with Nepal’s success to be dependent on whether the playing squad are buoyed or burdened by the thirty-thousand crammed in to watch.
The home side’s issues with the bat are well-documented, with captain Gyanendra Malla out of sorts even before the added weight of captaincy on his shoulders. Paras Khadka will play a big role after stepping down from the role, with questions of quality at the top of the order. Nepal could go back to Sharad Vesawkar, or continue to blood Dipendra Singh Airee and Rohit Paudel. Paudel was also spotted in the Nepali camp keeping, though Binod Bhandari is likely to continue as Nepal’s gloveman.
On the bowling front, the team’s pace artillery has taken a hit with newly-wedded Sompal Kami out of the series with a back injury. Avinash Bohara, Karan KC and Kamal Singh Airee will be left to pick up the slack on the seaming front.
Sandeep Lamichhane returns from the BBL early for the tri-series, though his premature departure has left a sour taste in the mouth of the Melbourne Stars, with a seeming breakdown in communication meaning the franchise was unable to recruit another foreign player before their title push. Lamichhane headlines the spin threat, backed up by the left-arm orthodox of Lalit Rajbanshi, Kusal Malla and Sushan Bhari.
Nepal has up to eight games in hand over several other competitors in CWCL2, with quirks in the drawing throwing up different scenarios for each team. A strong start to their campaign is vital for their chances to progress in 2023 World Cup Qualifying, given their packed schedule for this year in the tournament. Nepal features in four of the next five tri-series, travelling to Namibia, Scotland and Papua New Guinea.
The Americans originally named an unchanged squad after their successful trip to the UAE in December, though according to ESPN Cricinfo’s Peter Della Penna, Sagar Patel has tagged along with Cameron Stevenson yet to join. Steven Taylor has been stripped of his vice-captaincy for disciplinary reasons, but has travelled with the team and should take up his spot at number three. Aaron Jones is the glue of the batting order at number four, fresh off a successful series in UAE.
USA opted to prepare for the series in India, taking on teams in Mumbai over the last week with mixed results. They beat a Mumbai University XI by 28 runs, though fell to a Mumbai Colts team by 4 wickets.
Karima Gore and Nosthush Kenjige pose the biggest threat in Nepali conditions and could play a bigger role at the TU ground later in the series after heavy traffic on the Kirtipur surface. Taylor’s off-spin adds to captain Saurabh Netravalkar’s options and Timil Patel has form leading into the series, taking 5-22 in their tour match victory in Mumbai.
Ali Khan is unavailable and seemingly focusing on the upcoming PSL, leaving Rusty Theron, Cameron Stevenson and Netravalkar himself to bowl seam up.
Oman’s home campaign earlier this month was cut short after matches were cancelled due to the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said, with a mourning period of three days. They travel with the same squad that hosted that tri-series, and it was this consistent team selection and playing level that brought joy in 2019, securing ODI status through WCL2, and qualifying for the 2020 T20 World Cup.
The emergence of Mohammad Sanuth adds strength to Oman’s batting order, slotting in at number three and giving captain Zeeshan Maqsood more flexibility. Aaqib Ilyas and Maqsood may slide to four and five in the order respectively, placing less pressure on all-rounders and ‘keeper Suraj Kumar to make a bulk of the runs. Sandeep Goud could miss out, though brings the depth the team has yearned for in previous years.
A curiosity of Oman is that they don’t pack their side with spinners like that of some of their neighbours. Jay Odedra will do a job alongside Khawar Ali and skipper Maqsood, with Khawar developing his leg-spin to a level that almost matches his batting. Oman possesses the best quick attack at this level, though the conditions in Kathmandu suggest that alternative plans could be the way forward.
|Wed 5 Feb||Oman v Nepal|
|Thu 6 Feb||Oman v USA|
|Sat 8 Feb||USA v Nepal|
|Sun 9 Feb||Oman v Nepal|
|Tues 11 Feb||Oman v USA|
|Wed 12 Feb||USA v Nepal|
Nepal: Gyanendra Malla (Captain), Dipendra Singh Airee, Kamal Singh Aireee, Binod Bhandari, Sushan Bhari, Abinash Bohora, Karan KC, Paras Khadka, Sandeep Lamichhane, Kushal Malla, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi, Arif Sheikh, Sharad Vesawkar
Oman: Zeeshan Maqsood (Captain), Khawar Ali, Muhammad Nadeem Bhalli, Ahmed Fayyaz Butt, Sanuth Ebrahim, Sandeep Goud, Aqib Ilyas, Kaleemullah, Bilal Khan, Suraj Kumar, Muhammad Naseem, Jay Odedra, Baadal Singh, Jatinder Singh
USA: Saurabh Netravalkar (Captain), Karima Gore, Ian Holland, Akshay Homraj, Elmore Hutchinson, Aaron Jones, Nosthush Kenjige, Xavier Marshall, Steven Taylor, Monank Patel, Nisarg Patel, Timil Patel, Cameron Stevenson, Rusty Theron