Nepal’s 25th anniversary in international cricket, was the first such competition
This is a historic and important day for Nepali cricket. Today, 24 years ago, Nepal played its first international cricket tournament.
Nepal made its international debut on September 6, 1996 in the ACC Trophy against Bangladesh in Malaysia. Nepali cricket, which is currently celebrating its Silver Jubilee, played T20 World Cup in the meantime, got ODI recognition and also played some first class cricket.
Now Nepali cricket has made great strides. Many players who played at that time have witnessed the development of Nepali cricket till now. Remembering the same day on Sunday, the then vice-captain of the team, who later became the captain, Lekh Bahadur i.e. LB Chhetri posted his status on Facebook.
Saying that it was a proud moment to play in the first ACC Trophy, he also remembered some of the members of that team who have recently passed away.
That historic team was captained by Uttam Karmacharya. In a conversation a few days ago, Karmacharya said that it was a great blessing for him.
‘I am really happy with the first captain of the Nepali cricket team. That Malaysia tour was historic for us, ‘says Karmacharya.
LB Chhetri, who was the vice-captain of the same team, became the captain of the ACC Trophy two years later. He has published the book ‘Captain 1998’. Some members of that team later became coaches. Pawan Agrawal and Raju Khadka, who played in the same team, also captained the national team later. Jagat Tomata Nepal, a member of that team, was the coach when he got ODI recognition.
Nepal made its debut against Bangladesh on September 6, 1996. In the rain-soaked game, Nepal could not bat fully and Bangladesh won. Nepal defeated Japan the next day and got its first victory.
Basanta Shahi was the first wicket taker for Nepal. Similarly, Pawan Agrawal was the first player to score a half century. In the same ACC Trophy, Pawan scored 80 runs in the match against Brunei.
What was the selection, team and debut game of Nepal’s first team? Here is an excerpt from LB Chhetri’s book Captain 1998:
Selection of the first national team
The 12th Jay Trophy of Birgunj was important because the Nepali national team was preparing for this competition. That too to participate in the official international competition. The Asian Cricket Council (ACC) was launching the ACC Trophy for the first time with the aim of fostering brotherhood among developing Asian nations and developing cricket. The first ACC Championship was scheduled to be held in Malaysia.
Nepal Cricket Association (NCA) had to prepare the national team. Therefore, 24 people were shortlisted for the Jai Trophy based on their high performance. Ganesh Bahadur Shahi and I were selected from Banke. We were called for closed training in Birgunj. There was a schedule for living in the dharamshala of Mysthan, eating in the mess and training and practicing in the Narayani arena.
There was a concrete pitch. Practiced on the mat. Virendra Bhatnagar of India and Farooq Zaman of Pakistan were brought in as coaches for the closed training. Along with them, closed training was conducted under the supervision of Nepali coaches Arun Aryal and Sunoj Bhattarai. It was very difficult to train for a month in the scorching heat of Birgunj. We used to run and practice in the morning and evening. The temperature had exceeded 42 degrees. During one month of closed training, my skin burned and I became even darker.
I was satisfied with the performance. So the team was confident. As Nepal is playing a national competition for the first time, I had doubts about the selection process. Because in the selection of players, India also had a hard time. This was unlikely to happen in the Birgunj election. Needless to say, Ganesh and I were among the 18 people to be selected after the closed training. Four players were yet to be announced for the national team. I did not allow any lack of hard work, diligence and discipline. So Ganesh and I were included in the 14-member national team. It was as if my cricket, which had been lost in Bengal, had returned happily.
I had two dreams, the first was to play international cricket. Second, that too from the national team of Nepal. It was no less a matter of pride for a player who dreamed of living in India to play in the jersey of his national team of the decade. It was the greatest joy of all.
First ACC 1996 Malaysia
After a month of closed training in Birgunj, I returned to Kohalpur. On 22 August 1996, a fax signed by CAN President Jayakumar Nath Shah was received. It included the final list of players selected for the national team. Responsibilities were shared. There was no limit to happiness after receiving the fax. Because I was given the responsibility of vice-captain. The best staff was selected as the captain.
At the same time, a sense of responsibility was created. In the first national team, Uttam Kumar Karmacharya (Dhanusha) captain, Lekh Bahadur Chhetri (Banke) vice-captain, Manish Raj Pandey (Morang), Pawan Agrawal (Bara), Pukar Pant (Lalitpur), Sanjay Gurung (Rupandehi), Jagat Tamata (Rupandehi), Raju Khadka ( Rupandehi), Musaraf Izhar (Parsa), Ganesh Shahi (Banke), Kiran Rana (Kathmandu), Vasant Shahi (Rupandehi), Vishal Gupta (Bara) and Ritesh Baral (Dhanusha).
Four were placed in alternate. Shankar Rana as wicket keeper, Sandeep Shrestha as batsman, Sarvajit Pandey as all-rounder and Ball.