Nepal's captain urges team not to be overawed by the big stage and vocal crowds, but rather to embrace it
When you show up for your first ICC World Twenty20 match, as a team, and win by 80 runs, having bowled the opposition out for the second-lowest score in the history of the competition, you’re entitled to be pleased with your performance. Paras Khadka, Nepal’s captain, was all praise for the manner in which his team executed its plans against Hong Kong.
“I think it was an amazing team effort, the batsmen came to the party, there was a lot of criticism regarding the openers but we had the belief they would come good when it mattered,” said Khadka. “Once we got a good start we just capitalised. I think all of the top order batted pretty well. The way Shakti Gauchan and Basant Regmi bowled was fantastic, bringing the ball back in, skidding off the surface, backed up by very good fielding. It was almost like a perfect game for us.”
Khadka was not merely being generous in praise for his mates, he was being humble about his own contribution – a mature 41 at a time when wickets had just fallen, and the crucial wicket of Hong Kong opener Irfan Ahmed. “That’s something we are used to, both of us, we have been doing it for a very long time so nothing new for us,” said Khadka of his vital, steadying 80-run partnership with Gyanendra Malla. “I still feel we should have got at least 10-15 runs more than we did. Fortunately today Hong Kong didn’t have a very good day with the bat but then if you want to do well in the tournament, I’d say we were short. But as batsmen we try to build it up, for the latter stages, the finishing wasn’t as good as we wanted but as long as we win we’ll take it.”
Hong Kong and Nepal have traded wins in their march to qualification for the big leagues, and Jamie Atkinson, Hong Kong's captain, conceded that his opponents had moved in the right direction. “Nepal are an ever improving team. They have worked their way up the rankings like we have,” said Atkinson. “With that good support they seem to have whenever we play them, they really played off that today. They did the basics well, got the runs on the board, exerted some good pressure with the ball, got the early wickets and didn’t let us get back into the game.”
Khadka realised that the journey had just begun and that much work remained, especially in the upcoming game against Bangladesh on Tuesday (March 18). “We need to take it one game at a time, I said before the tournament. We have done most things right today but there are still a lot of things we need to do, especially against Bangladesh. They had a very good day as well so it’s a matter of starting all over again,” said Khadka. “We don’t get too many opportunities to play against Test teams, so we need to make the most of it. With the T20 format you have to play all 40 overs pretty good or you might end up losing.”
One thing that seemed to frazzle Hong Kong, the din the crowd made, would not faze Nepal, Khadka insisted. “We are used to playing in front of 15-20,000 people. Against Bangladesh, there maybe even 40,000, but it will only be different in that the amount of noise will be higher. But saying that, you are playing a game of cricket, you are not playing against the crowd,” said Khadka. “All you need to do is do what you are capable of and it’s a matter of making things as simple as possible. I’m sure there are lots of positives we can take from here but we need to calm down as well. You can’t go ballistic just because of one victory. We’ll take it slowly, and playing in front of a crowd is something we enjoy, more than pressure it’s a matter of pleasure for us.”
Khadka said he encouraged his team not to be overawed by the big stage, but rather to embrace it. “That’s what we play for, as cricketers, the fan following and the amount of love and support that everybody gives us. I think it is one of the biggest motivational factors for us to do well. Everywhere we go, all over the world, we get massive support and we want to do it for our people back home,” said Khadka. “We want to do well for ourselves, for our people. For a country cricket has brought a lot of happiness to a lot of people. Cricket has become a factor. As long as we try and do well and win matches for our country and make our people happy, things will be well. We’ll do that any given day and put in our best throughout.”