Pubudu: Youthful Nepal core “can only get better from here.”

Nepal celebrate a wicket at the CWCL2 at Moosa Stadium in Houston

The Cricket World Cup League Two tri-series between Nepal, USA, and Oman in Houston wrapped up last week. Nepal, playing with a relatively young squad, departed Houston with a 1-2-1 record in the series, and currently sit in fifth place in the Cricket World Cup League Two table (16 games played, 15 points), ahead of Namibia by a single point, though Namibia have two games in hand. 

It is difficult to gauge the ebbs and flows of the CWCL2 table and predict a final finish for the league, especially for teams outside of the top three. Covid-19 has had a serious impact on the schedules, and Oman currently top the table with 44 points, having played all 36 of their games, 16 more than second place Scotland. USA have played the second most games in the league, still 12 games behind Oman, but sit at fourth place, in spite of being the only team from the two Houston tri-series (USA, Oman, Nepal, Scotland, UAE) to finish with a winning record.

What’s at stake in the CWCL2 is not only a berth in the 2023 World Cup Qualifier for the top three teams in the table, but the likely retention of ODI Status for the top five teams in the table.

In spite of these high stakes, and with 20 games of CWCL2 yet to play, Nepal coach Pubudu Dassanayake prefers to invest in a youthful core. The merit of the youth focus seemed evident as three of Nepal’s top four run scorers in Houston are under the age of 22 (Aasif Sheikh, 21; Rohit Paudel, 19; Dev Khanal, 17) and the fourth, Aarif Sheikh, is still only 24.

“After I took over Nepal, we re-structured many things and came up with a young team,” Nepal head coach Pubudu Dassanayake told Emerging Cricket.

“Taking a bit of risk for this cycle of the World Cup League Two, we want to build a good unit for the future. And if you look at all the WCL2 games we played this year, we played competitive cricket throughout, but couldn’t close a few games for lack of maturity. It only can get better from here. Houston conditions were challenging and both USA and Oman teams played quality cricket. We were tested in all departments, but happy the way we stood up.” 

Above: while much was made of a few heated moments between USA and Nepal, Peter Della Penna captured a warm moment between USA’s Steven Taylor and Nepal fans at Moosa.

Known for their passionate fan base, Nepal supporters showed up in big numbers at Moosa Stadium to cheer for their team in the scorching Texas heat. “Nepal has their supporters wherever they go. We’re thankful for everyone who came to the Moosa grounds to cheer us on.” 

During Pubudu’s tenure as head coach of USA from 2016 until his departure in 2019, USA Cricket had one ODI ground: Broward County Stadium, in Lauderhill, Florida. Moosa Stadium joined the ranks this summer, and impressed many, including the former USA coach. 

“Moosa Cricket Stadium is one of the best in Associate Cricket. Pitches played well throughout the tournament. Dressing rooms and facilities were top class. Everything was well organized by the ground staff. Special thanks to USA Cricket for the best setup.” 

The Rhinos will now continue a tour of North America, visiting Canada for two T20i and two one day games against the hosts, beginning on June 28. The continued tour means that Nepal will finish the trip having played against the two other Associate teams Pubudu has coached to great success during his accomplished coaching career that began with Canada in 2006.

“I am trying to expose this Nepal team to more cricket in different conditions. The Only way they can get better is playing more cricket, and the Nepal community in USA and Canada is kind enough to sponsor both tours! We are very thankful for them.”

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