Nepal’s U19 eyes to defy odds at the World Cup


Kathmandu, Jan. 20; The 15th edition of the ICC U19 Men’s Cricket World Cup kicked off on Friday with the host South Africa facing West Indies in Potchefstroom and Ireland vs USA in Bloemfontein. 

Ireland and the USA are in Group A with Bangladesh and title-defender India while South Africa and West Indies are in Group B with England and Scotland.

Nepal, who is in Group D with Pakistan, Afghanistan and New Zealand, will play its first match of the group stage against younger Black Caps at Buffalo Park, a cricket ground in East London, South Africa.

It is not the first time that Nepal’s U19 team has faced the three opponent teams in Group D. Pakistan and Afghanistan, alongside India, were in Group A of ACC U19 Asia Cup 2023 held in December in Dubai.

However, Nepal lost all three matches in the group stage. Pakistan won by seven wickets with 142 balls remaining and Afghanistan defeated Nepal by 73 runs. The defeat against India was the poorest one as Nepal was bowled out at 52 runs after having given to bat first, and India chased the target in 7.1 overs without losing any wickets.

Nevertheless, Nepal’s young guns have been able to defy the odds several times, especially at the World Cup stage. 

Nepal defeated New Zealand and Ireland in the group stages of the ICC U19 World Cup in 2016. Nepal won by 32 runs against New Zealand and by eight wickets (with 147 balls remaining) against Ireland. The only loss for Nepal in the group stage was against India. The team also failed to win any of the games in the playoffs as it faced Bangladesh, Pakistan and Namibia.

A young Nepali team has been able to register wins against better teams in the early years as well. When Paras Khadka and Shakti Gauchan were in the U19 team, Nepal defeated South Africa in Chattogram in 2004. Chasing a target of 157, Gauchan combined with No. 11 Sashi Kesari after the ninth wicket fell at 138 runs. The partnership of the final wicket helped Nepal bag the win with one wicket and two balls to spare.

In 2006, Nepal became the Plate Champions after defeating New Zealand’s U19 team comprising the likes of Martin Guptill, Tim Southee, Colin Munro and Hamish Bennett. New Zealand had put on 204 after batting first. Basant Regmi was the star for Nepal with the ball as he picked up three wickets.  Moreover, Regmi’s significant role with the bat and a resilient last-wicket partnership guided Nepal to a close win, securing victory with two balls in hand.

Nepal’s current young team will also be trying to win as many matches as possible and reach as high as they can in the tournament. 

According to the ICC, captain Dev Khanal and experienced youngster Gulshan Jha, both of whom have appeared for the Nepali senior team, will be the players to watch from Nepal in the tournament. 

The ICC has also identified Arjun Kumal and Durgesh Gupta as the players to watch. “Arjun Kumal has put together several knocks across warm-up play and the ACC U19 Asia Cup, while Durgesh Gupta is a left-arm seamer who has impressed in junior domestic cricket,” ICC states.

In warm-up matches before the tournament kicked off, the Nepali team showed it was ready for the World Cup. Nepal defeated Scotland by 135 runs.

Nepal was bowled out at 284 runs in 49.2 overs. The target was a result of Gulshan Jha’s brilliant innings of 114 runs from 115 balls alongside Dipak Bohara’s unbeaten 58 runs off 54 balls. Scotland was bundled for 149 runs as Tilak Bhandari took three wickets and Aakash Chand bagged two.

The team also defeated Namibia by six runs. Nepal was able to defend a low target of 142 runs in a match reduced to 30 overs. Namibia was bowled out at 135 runs in 29.5 overs.

A warm-up match with West Indies on January 16 was called off due to rain. Only 10 overs of the first inning were played. Electing to field first, Gulshan Jha was able to take one wicket in the match where West Indies took the score to 33 before it was interrupted by rain.

After facing New Zealand on January 21, Nepal will face Pakistan and Afghanistan on January 24 and 27 at Buffalo Park respectively with a determination to qualify for the playoffs as one of the top two teams in the group.

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