Kathmandu-29 August 2023
As Nepal’s remarkable journey in ODI cricket this year unfolds, the much-anticipated moment has arrived – Nepal is poised to make its debut in the prestigious Asia Cup. In the backdrop of uncertainties surrounding hosting rights and schedules, particularly amidst the political tensions between India and Pakistan, the sixteenth edition of the Asia Cup is all set to kick off in Multan, famously known as “The City of Saints”. With the historic occasion on the horizon, let’s delve into the noteworthy aspects of the tournament:
1. Nepal’s Historic Debut
Having clinched victory in the ACC Premier Cup earlier this year on their home turf, Nepal is on the cusp of making its Asia Cup debut as the sole associate nation in this season’s lineup. This marks a significant milestone in Nepal’s cricketing journey. Prior to Nepal, seven other teams have graced the regional tournament, including traditional powerhouses such as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan, as well as associates UAE and Hong Kong. The latter two, however, missed out on this edition, failing to secure victory in the ACC Premier Cup against Nepal in Kathmandu. Nepal is the fifth associate nation to participate in the Asia Cup, considering Bangladesh and Afghanistan’s involvement before gaining full member status. It’s worth noting that Nepal had previously qualified for the Asia Cup in 2002; however, the tournament couldn’t materialize due to the India-Pakistan political tensions.
2. Asia Cup Returns to Pakistan After 15 Years
Over the past decade and a half, Pakistan’s cricketing landscape was significantly impacted by political tensions with neighboring India and the unfortunate 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Consequently, the country went without hosting international matches for an extended period. In a heartening development, cricket has now resumed in Pakistan, and the nation is poised to host the Asia Cup after a hiatus of 15 years. The last time Pakistan hosted the tournament was in 2008, where Sri Lanka emerged victorious by defeating India in Karachi.
3. Expanding Beyond Boundaries
While Pakistan is making its return as a host after a long gap, this edition of the Asia Cup is breaking new ground. For the first time in the tournament’s history, matches will be played across international borders. While Pakistan will host four out of the thirteen matches, Sri Lanka will stage the remaining nine, including the highly anticipated clash between arch-rivals India and Pakistan, as well as the grand finale. This shift from the conventional format of hosting all matches within a single country adds a new dimension to the tournament.
4. Tournament Format
Unlike the previous year, when the tournament was played in the T20I format, the current edition of the Asia Cup will be contested in the traditional ODI format. The six participating teams have been divided into two groups, each comprising three teams. The top two teams from each group will progress to the Super Four stage, where they will engage in a round-robin format. Subsequently, the top contenders will square off in the much-anticipated final showdown. Nepal finds itself placed in Group A alongside host Pakistan and cricket powerhouse India, while co-host Sri Lanka shares Group B with Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
5. Nepal’s Squad and Prospective Lineup
In a momentous occasion for Nepal, the Cricket Association of Nepal has unveiled a 17-member squad led by the youngest skipper of this year’s Asia Cup, Rohit Paudel. The team arrived in Pakistan a week before the tournament’s commencement, and prominent spinner Sandeep Lamichhane joined the squad recently.
Nepal Squad: Rohit Paudel (c), Kushal Bhurtel, Aasif Sheikh (wk), Arjun Saud (wk), Bhim Sharki, Kushal Malla, Aarif Sheikh, Sundeep Jora, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gulshan Jha, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Kishore Mahato, Lalit Rajbanshi, Shyam Dhakal, Pratish GC
The predicted playing XI for Nepal’s debut match against Pakistan is:
Kushal Bhurtel, Aasif Sheikh (wk), Bhim Sharki, Rohit Paudel (c), Kushal Malla, Gulshan Jha, Dipendra Singh Airee, Sompal Kami, Sandeep Lamichhane, Karan KC, Lalit Rajbanshi.
6. Exciting Fixtures Await
The action-packed schedule promises thrilling encounters that cricket enthusiasts won’t want to miss:–
August 30, 2023: Pakistan vs Nepal
August 31, 2023: Sri Lanka vs Bangladesh
September 2, 2023: Pakistan vs India
September 3, 2023: Bangladesh vs Afghanistan
September 4, 2023: India vs Nepal
September 5, 2023: Sri Lanka vs Afghanistan
-September 6 – September 15, 2023: Super Four Stage
-September 17, 2023: Grand Finale
As the cricketing world eagerly anticipates Nepal’s Asia Cup debut, the nation’s collective excitement and support underscore the significance of this moment in Nepal’s sporting history. The match is poised to be a defining chapter, generating memories that will resonate for generations to come.