Nepal has emerged as a formidable contender in international cricket, garnering global attention with its stellar performances in 2023. This year has been particularly noteworthy for Nepali sports, with cricket taking centre stage and the nation achieving remarkable milestones, including rewriting T20I World records and securing a spot in the T20 World Cup.
Nepal's journey to the T20 World Cup 2024 was sealed with an impressive performance in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Asia Region Qualifier held in Kathmandu.
As a result, fervent Nepali sports enthusiasts eagerly anticipate witnessing their team compete on the world stage for the second time, following their appearance in 2014.
The Hangzhou Asian Games witnessed Nepal's cricket team shattering multiple world records, captivating the global cricketing community, and solidifying its presence on the international stage.
Furthermore, the team's exceptional performance in the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2, progressing from the second-last spot to an automatic berth in the Zimbabwe ICC Men's Cricket World Cup Qualifier, underscores the newfound strength of Nepali cricket.
While narrowly missing qualification for the 2023 ICC ODI Cricket World Cup, Nepal made a significant impact in the 2023 ODI Asia Cup. Impressively competing against cricket powerhouses India and Pakistan during the Asia Cup, as well as showing resilience against Test-playing nations West Indies, Zimbabwe, and Ireland during the ODI global qualifier, Nepal showcased its prowess and potential.
The success story extends to the Under-19 national cricket team, which has also qualified for the World Cup scheduled to be held in South Africa next year.
To sustain and elevate this momentum in Nepali cricket, the government recognises the necessity for match exposure against experienced teams, necessitating significant structural and infrastructural changes in Nepali sports.
Acknowledging this success, the Nepal government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, has made a commendable decision to prioritise sports as a crucial component of its national agenda.
Prime Minister Dahal, expressing a strong commitment to the development of the sports sector, has consistently assured government support for the advancement of Nepali sports.
The head of government firmly believes that the progress of sports is linked to the prosperity of the country. He is confident that Nepal has the potential to make significant strides in sports, provided that they give proper attention to producing athletes, developing physical infrastructure, and promoting sportspeople.
The government's focus extends to the development of sports infrastructure, emphasising investments in modern facilities, training academies, and state-of-the-art stadiums.
To ensure widespread access to sports, the government has guaranteed budgets for the construction of sports units and grounds in each of the country's 171 municipalities.
The government under Dahal has given high priority to the construction of cricket stadiums, allocating a significant budget for this purpose.
The aim is to complete major cricket stadiums such as Mulpani Cricket Stadium in Kathmandu, Girija Prasad Koirala Stadium in Biratnagar, Dashrath Chand in Baitadi, Fapla Cricket Stadium in Kailali, and Subarna Shumsher Cricket Stadium in Kathmandu.
Despite these positive steps, challenges such as delays in stadium construction, bureaucratic hurdles, and legal issues have been encountered.
The Prime Minister's directive to install floodlights at the TU Cricket Ground, following Nepal's exceptional performance in WCL 2, faced delays due to bureaucratic processes. However, progress is underway, with the evaluation of tenders completed and the intent to install floodlights imminent.
Efforts are being directed towards completing highly prioritised projects, including the Mulpani Cricket Stadium, Girija Prasad Koirala Stadium, and others.
Work on the highly prioritised Mulpani Cricket Stadium is underway, with 37.25 per cent of the project already completed. Currently, the focus is on constructing the VIP pavilion. Additionally, the government has initiated field preparation for the Mahendranagar Cricket Stadium.
During the first year of Prime Minister Dahal, the preliminary design for the Girija Prasad Koirala Cricket Stadium was completed.
The construction of the parapet for the VIP pavilion at Pokhara Cricket Stadium and the regular parapet at Bhairahawa Cricket Ground is currently underway. Additionally, the construction of the Women Cricket Academy in Kohalpur, Banke, is progressing well, with ten per cent of the work completed this year.
The government's commitment to sports extends beyond infrastructure, with investments in athlete training, awards, and welfare. More than 10,000 sportspersons have received national-level training, and financial support has been provided to players achieving success on the international stage.
Regular training sessions were provided to 155,000 players. Athletes were also given opportunities for foreign training in preparation for the Guangzhou Asian Games. During the Asiad, Nepal received one silver medal in karate from Arika Gurung and one bronze medal in women's kabaddi. Palesha Goverdhan won Nepal's first medal at the Para-Asian Games held in Guangzhou in para-taekwondo.
The government's proactive stance includes awards for outstanding achievements, monthly allowances for medal-winning athletes, and the formulation of a sports insurance policy.
Prime Minister Dahal has been swift in announcing cash awards to provide timely motivation to players. Under his administration, new regulations for awards have been formulated, and despite some delays, the government has fulfilled its commitment by disbursing the promised cash awards to deserving athletes.
The government has recognised and rewarded the national cricket team for their triumph in the ACC Men's Premier Cup and their qualification for the global qualifiers of the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup. Each member of the national cricket team has received a cash reward of Rs. 700,000 from the government.
Furthermore, the government has maintained its commitment to supporting athletes by continuing the provision of monthly allowances to South Asian Games gold medalists, Asian Games medalists, and Olympians.
The recent introduction of the sports insurance policy demonstrates the government's dedication to the welfare of athletes, providing much-needed security for players and event organisers alike.
As Nepal continues its journey towards sporting excellence, the government's unwavering support is poised to propel the nation to even greater heights on the global stage.
(Joshi is Associate Editor at TRN)