Nepal have named a 16-player squad for the Cricket World Cup Qualifier next month, sticking with the group that has enjoyed success across the first half of 2023.
Led by young starlet Rohit Paudel, the side has been arguably the most successful men's international team across any format in the year thus far, winning 13 of their last 14 ODIs, of which 11 came in their final run of 12 matches in the Cricket World Cup League 2. The League 2 run culminated in sealing an automatic spot at the upcoming Qualifier, and the side also secured ACC Premier Cup silverware, and qualification for the Asia Cup later in the year.
It's no surprise that coach Monty Desai and the Cricket Association of Nepal have gone with a similar group for Zimbabwe, naming the same 14 men that claimed the Premier Cup trophy, before adding Arjun Saud as wicket-keeping back-up to Aasif Sheikh, and 23-year-old Kishor Mahato as fast-bowling insurance.
Mahato has impressed in domestic action for the APF Club in domestic cricket, seemingly edging Abinash Bohara. Batter Dev Khanal, who has 10 ODI appearances to his name, missed out on the squad.
Fast-bowling luxury is still somewhat of a novelty for the Nepali national team, who at times could not find room for Karan KC in the side in the last six months. 17-year-old revelation Gulshan Jha breathes life into the bowling attack by leveraging his height for pace and bounce, and will most likely join Karan and Sompal Kami on seamer-friendly wickets. Pratish GC has also been named and provides a left-arm option.
Sandeep Lamichhane and Lalit Rajbanshi line up as Nepal's frontline spinners, with finger spinner Dipendra Singh Airee another all-rounder at Desai's disposal. With the bat, Airee remains a key cog despite moving down the order, with middle order responsibility now on the shoulders on skipper Paudel, Kushal Malla and the consistent Bhim Sharki.
Sharki (330 ODI runs) has been dismissed just twice under 20 in his nine innings to this point, averaging 41.25.
Nepal stay in Harare for their two warm-up matches against UAE and Oman, before meeting the hosts Zimbabwe on 18 June.
The side face the USA and the West Indies in matches two and three, with their meeting against the Dutch on 24 June likely a decider for a place in the Super Six stage.
Nepal: Rohit Paudel (c), Kushal Bhurtel, Aasif Sheikh, Gyanendra Malla, Kushal Malla, Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gulsan Jha, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Sandeep Lamichhane, Bhim Sarki, Lalit Rajbanshi, Pratish GC, Arjun Saud, Kishor Mahato