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Fellow Nepalis, happy World Cup!

The tunes of the national anthem played at Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas tonight in the T20 World Cup will reverberate across the globe with the power to chock up as well as lit up every Nepali soul.

Today we play our first match against the Netherlands in the ninth edition of the T20 World Cup co-hosted by the United States and West Indies. The match starts at 9:15 PM. Ideally, 15 minutes prior to the official start we should be able to hear our national anthem played at the Grand Prairie Stadium in Texas. Hopefully, a packed stadium with majority spectators from the Nepali diaspora in the States dressed in red and blue and waving the Nepali flag will be seen singing the national anthem with pride. However, what can be said with the highest degree of confidence is that tunes of the national anthem played in Texas will reverberate across the globe with the power to chock up as well as lit up every Nepali soul. Hence amidst this churning of emotions, I present my reflections on the significance of this moment in our nation’s modern history.

World Cup 2014 versus 2024 

We played our first T20 International match in March 2014 against Hong Kong in the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh. Our exposure to international cricket was limited to Associate cricket prior to 2014. Hence, given our lack of exposure, the cricket pundits did not give us much chance to go past the first round or create an upset. Moreover, as a fan, I was satisfied and may be content to see the team playing at a global event with little expectations for getting past the preliminary round. However, the scenario is vastly different in the 2024 edition.

Prior to this World Cup, we gained our One Day International status in 2018, played against the test playing nations like Zimbabwe, Ireland and West Indies in the 2023 International Cricket Council (ICC) World Cup Qualifier, played at the Asia Cup against the cricketing powerhouse India and Pakistan, clashed against the Indian T20 side in the Asian games, played a T20 series against the West Indies A side to prepare for the World Cup and to top it up the federal government provided Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) with 50 million rupees to prepare for the World Cup back in March 2024. Further, we have landed in the United States about a month ahead of our first match to acclimatize and prepare. Moreover, the cricket pundits having watched Nepal’s games are talking about Nepal’s possibilities of beating a test nation. Therefore, given our exposure and the opportunity, this time around I feel we can beat any team on a given day. Arguably, the sense of self belief in fans like me is the fundamental difference between the two World Cups and I feel that the same is true for the cricketers too.

This sense of belongingness to a global event is what we need as a nation. For a country that is looking forward to transitioning from the least developed country status by 2026, we need inspiration that helps us defy our self-inflicted limitations or the mental block to achieve excellence in all walks of life. Our presence in this global cricketing extravaganza truly defines the aspirations of fellow citizens and the need of hour to outperform their own expectations if we are to make a big leap as a nation.
The craze
We have five test playing nations- India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in our immediate neighborhood. The craze for cricket in South Asia is unmatched. That passion must have been injected in us because of the proximity. Besides, I believe there is another reason for this madness. The median age of the Nepali population is 26 years and a little over a quarter of the population is aged 14 years and below. Hence, we are a relatively young population that is hungry for success. However, I am unable to recall a modern day achievement which excites us, unites us, that we can walk, carry around like a badge of honor and most importantly generates that all important involuntary chant of “Nepal, Nepal, Nepal, Nepal…”. In the resonance of that chant in the Mulpani or Tribhuvan University (TU) cricket ground we see all our social, cultural, political, religious, geographical divides fade away.

It is not merely the unwavering passion and growth of cricket in Nepal that contributes to nation building but the game’s ability to transcend boundaries and unite all people of Nepali origin is yet another aspect of Nepali cricket which will contribute to nation building.

Undoubtedly, cricket is the manifestation of our collective awareness as a nation about the things we can achieve as team Nepal. It is indeed the representation of the successes that you and I have long yearned for as a nation. Hence, that is the source of the craze called cricket which helps us explain the reason for people’s willingness to wait patiently in a heavy downpour that too without a shade for matches to restart in Tribhuvan University Cricket ground or climb trees in the vicinity of the ground to get a glimpse of the match.

While the passion for the game is a must for the game to thrive in the country, it needs to be backed up by a basic infrastructure at all levels including school cricket such that we are continuing to produce players for us to get to the World Cup not in span of 10 years but pretty much every other World Cup and Asia cup.
Connecting the nation with the diaspora
It is not merely the unwavering passion and growth of cricket in Nepal that contributes to nation building but the game’s ability to transcend boundaries and unite all people of Nepali origin is yet another aspect of Nepali cricket which will contribute to nation building. Recently, I have been watching videos of the Nepali community in the States welcoming Nepali cricketers and expressing their joy over Nepali team’s participation in the World Cup. It is also expected that the stadium in Texas will try and match the thrill of the TU cricket ground. This reinforces the belief that a Nepali’s loyalty for the country does not change with the change of passport. It is these successes that get Nepalis from other parts of the world to wave the Nepali flag and chant “Nepal, Nepal, Nepal, Nepal…”. Our exposure to big cricketing events has inevitably reinvigorated the pride of being a Nepali and the opportunity to connect second generation Nepalis in foreign countries to connect with their country of Origin. The visuals of Nepalis in South Africa supporting the Nepali side during the under-19 World Cup there in January and February 2024 as well as the support for the side while playing in the Middle East is quite fascinating. Hence, it is high time that the Cricket Association of Nepal’s (CAN) took concrete measures to connect the diaspora across the globe for the development of cricket infrastructure in Nepal.

Thanking past efforts
If time travel were true, a Nepali time traveler from the year 1946 who happened to land in June 2024 the news about our participation in the World Cup would be overwhelming, surreal and perplexing. I have chosen 1946 because that is the year CAN was established. It was not until 1961 that CAN became part of the National sports council and then in February 1996 Nepal became an associate member of the International Cricket Council. We have come quite a long way from league 5 cricket to becoming one of the top associate nations. Sometimes it is quite easy to forget the past efforts in the light of current achievements. However, it is in the light of those honest efforts by different generations of cricketers and administrators that today I am in position to get the official World Cup jersey and look forward to a spirited performance from the Nepali team. Good luck to each one of us and a very happy World Cup.

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