Cricket Association of Nepal says ‘No’ to age restrictions in PM Cup

Earlier on the 8th of February, Kushal Malla, a young Nepali prodigy became the youngest batsman in the world to score an ODI half-century. He scored 50 runs from 51 balls in a Cricket World Cup League 2 match, played at the Tribhuwan University Ground, Kathmandu. He was 15 years and 340 days of age when he recorded this extraordinary feat playing against the USA

Prior to Kushal Malla, it was Nepal’s other young cricketer Rohit Kumar Paudel who set this record playing against the UAE. On the 26th of January, 2019 Paudel (16 years and 146 days) scored 55 off 58 against the UAE in their second ODI of a three-match series in the UAE. On that day, he shadowed the past records of Shahid Afridi and Sachin Tendulkar becoming the youngest half centurion which was later broken by Kushal Malla. 

After completing their important CWCL2 home fixtures against Oman and the USA in February, Nepal then played the ACC Eastern Region T20 Cup in March, with the world going into lockdown not long after. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in Nepal, cricketers have finally returned back to the ground for training, after receiving a green signal from the National Sports Council and the Government of Nepal. As the cricketers train under the closed camp, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) announced the dates for their National Cricket Tournament, the Prime Minister’s Cup (PM Cup), for both men and women. 

CAN also issued notices to its 39 district associations and seven provincial associations to conduct fair district team selections by the 6th of December and Provincial selections by the 22nd of December. The PM Cup Women’s National Cricket Tournament will be played in Lamahi, Dang while the Men’s event is set to be played in Kathmandu, with both tournaments commencing from 26th of December. 

While the district associations are preparing for their team selection processes, a few districts like Bajhang and Morang have officially issued notices restricting cricketers less than 16 years of age from attending trials, and most of the district associations have made presentation of citizenship certificates of participants mandatory. The government of Nepal issues national citizenship certificates of a Nepalese individual only after reaching 16 years of age. So, on making the citizenship certificates mandatory, it seems almost certain that the upcoming young players like Kushal Malla and Rohit Paudel, who excelled even from the national teams, making a mark in the world, will clearly be restricted from participating in the national tournament. 

‘I personally have not heard about such right now but we are clear that CAN has not planned to restrict any as such. We would like more cricketers participating in the national tournament, right from the grassroots level. And, I ensure age restrictions shall not be entertained. I will follow up the cases from district associations, President of the CAN, Chatur Bahadur Chand told Emerging Cricket.

Some officials from the district associations also claimed that the confusion arose after the introduction of a new rule by the ICC, setting a minimum age of 15 years to play any form of ‘international’ cricket, including official U19 matches.

If aspiring cricketers are restricted from the grassroots levels on the basis of their age, how can the great players rise? Hasan Raza, the Pakistani cricketer made his Test debut against Zimbabwe in 1996 at an age of just 14, the great Sachin Tendulkar made his test debut at the young age of 16. Nepal itself has two of the youngest cricketers Kushal Malla and Rohit Kumar Paudel making their mark in One Day Internationals. Globetrotter Sandeep Lamichhane made his debut from the senior national team at the age of 16. 

Better than restricting aspiring cricketers to participate in the valuable national system, it would much better if the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) were to instruct its district and provincial bodies not to include any harsh clauses that limit young cricketers in chasing their dreams. To verify cricketers under 16 years of age, a birth certificate certified by the government of Nepal could easily ensure the right of young and emerging cricketers, who would one day make their country proud. The President of CAN agreed on this, speaking with Emerging Cricket

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