Nepal's three-day cricket match against UAE at the latter's home is a nervous outing for the two teams looking for a kind of revenge. UAE is the team on top — winning the earlier versions of ACC Premier League twice and one-day ACC Trophy thrice and Nepal is the only team in the region that can threat its domination.
Last year, Nepal thrashed UAE by 172 runs in a three-day game. Earlier this year, UAE avenged that loss with an easy nine-wicket victory in the ACC Trophy semifinal in Malaysia. For this match, slated to begin o Saturday, Nepal looks to repeat last year's form while UAE wants to convert the success of 50-over game into two-innings match.
'They have been on top for years and are certainly a strong team,' Nepal's coach Roy Luke Dias believes. 'It would be a tough game as they must be waiting for us for last year's revenge.'
Dias speaks of any match cautiously, even when the opponent is the weakest one, and takes it the same way. No wonder he doesn't say Nepal can defeat UAE —- a strong side that has defeated Nepal in all but one match. And Nepal is playing at its den. 'It's different than last year, because we are playing at their home,' Dias says. 'And the high temperature there could be a deciding factor.'
Nepal team is boosted by the return of vice-captain Shakti Gauchan who missed the inaugural match against Hong Kong in Kathmandu due to eye problems. Nepal won the its first match in the five-team ACC Premier League collecting 32 points out of possible 34. And the win will lift Nepal's morale in UAE.
'Winning against Hong Kong was important for us,' Dias adds. 'It was the first match and a win in the first match gives confidence.' The long-time coach hopes to add one more feather in his cap by winning the ACC Premier League title and rues that Nepal missed it last year despite outplaying the eventual winner UAE.
'This is a crucial match because UAE is a strong team and our players must labor hard for the win,' Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) President Binaya Raj Pandey says. 'If we win, we will put a hand on the title so I hope the team will put up a good performance.'
Captain Binod Das too hopes for a victory. 'We are heading for UAE with hopes of repeating the last year's feat,' Binod, who was also the man-of-the-match in the last year's win, says. Binod completed 50 wickets in multi-day format matches in the match against Hong Kong and is ready to fire again for the country. 'It's a big ask to defeat them at their den, but we are on a positive mood with confidence that we can defeat them.'
He still misses Dhirendra Chand, a key player in fast bowling department, who is sidelined by spine injury. But there is left-hand seamer Amrit Bhattarai, who proved he could be as good with his Under-19 herocs, though a bit inexperienced in the senior level. Hard-hitting Mehboob Alam, the man-of-the-match in the win against Hong Kong, will be the other pacer along with Paras Khadka who can also do some spin if required.
The spin department looks complete with off-spinner Sanjam Regmi and leg-spinner Raj Kumar Pradhan complementing each-other. The left-arm spin of Shakti and Basanta Regmi gives more choice for the captain. Specialist batsmen in the team are Paresh Lohani, who hopes to recover from his struggling form, Sarad Vesawkar, Antim Thapa and Gyanendra Malla. Other players in the team include wicket-keepers Mahesh Chhetri and Manoj Katuwal.
The team is scheduled to fly for the match Thursday morning. CAN organized a program Wednesday to wish good luck to the team. The program was attended by National Sports Council's vice-chairman Sitaram Maskey, acting member secretary Ajhar Manandhar and member Laxman Shrestha along with officials from CAN.
Cricket has been showing a great promise for the future and with every win, it increases. But so far the senior team has faltered in crunch matches disheartening fans. This time, the team hopes to change all that by continuing its good performance for a victory against a good team. Good luck, Nepal!