Zimbabwe and Nepal will go head-to-head in their first match of ICC World Cup Qualifier 2018.

Form, past records, international experience, everything suggests that it would be a straightforward victory for Zimbabwe. However, complacency might get in their way. Nepal goes into this match as the clear underdogs. I have already mentioned primary information and difference between these two sides in the previous episode of a preview (Check here – https://wp.me/p6p5RK-11s ).

NEPAL

Nepal are in the tournament ahead of World Cup’s semifinalist Kenya and four times World Cup participating nation, Canada, an indication the Rhinos are continuing to move up the ranks of international cricket. Nepal has played some good cricket and it took them only 8 years to make a spot in Division I, all the way from Division V. But now it’s time for a big result, namely World Cup Qualifier berth to truly show their improvement.

Strong Points
Nepali cricket team’s biggest strength and strong point is their batting depth and plenty of bowling options. Basant Regmi, who bats at no.10 (most of the time), has an ability to take the match home with the bat as well for his nation as it is seen notably in many instances. Where Nepal has as many as four bowling options to fulfill a quota of the fifth bowler. Paras Khadka, Aarif Sheikh, Sharad Vesawkar and Dipendra Airee can only not roll their arms but also are capable to give a blow to their opposition. Collecting the stats, I came to know Nepal’s lower order’s massive contribution. Talking about five league stage matches of recently concluded ICC World Cricket League Division II (WCL2), Nepal scored 765 runs out of which 384 (50.19%) runs were scored after losing 5 wickets.

Where, barring four genuine bowlers (Kami, Regmi, Lamichhane, and KC) Nepal’s fifth bowlers bowled 53 overs, conceding 182 runs and succeed to claim 5 wickets. They bowled at a handy average of 36.4 with an impressive economy of 3.43. Above stats clearly justify Nepal’s batting depth and plenty of bowling options.

Leaving this, Nepal’s another biggest strength is their three-star performers. Their inspirational skipper Paras Khadka along with a spin duo of teen star Lamichhane and veteran Regmi hold the key to Nepal’s success.

(Predictable unpredictability is Nepal’s biggest strength in Bulawayo against Zimbabwe)

No team flirts with the emotions of their fans and opposition quite like Nepal. One moment they are brilliant, the next they are miserable. Their performances fluctuate between these two extremes like a pendulum and the emotions of their fans go to and fro with them. One day they can lose a game against Oman and next day they can trump the tournament’s contender (UAE). Their fluctuating performance not only beat their fan’s heart loudly, but they also play with opposition’s feelings, registering 1 wicket victory. Nepal was ranked 7 in ICC World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) and relegated to Division II. Experts were putting Nepal behind likes of UAE, Kenya, and Canada but they stunned everyone (even themselves) and topped ICC WCL Division league table. Not even their most optimistic follower would have predicted that.

But that’s Nepal the most unpredictable side and so-called ‘playboy’ of an associate arena. This will be Nepal’s most positive and strong point going through ICC World Cup Qualifier.

Weak Points
Talking about Nepali cricket team’s weakness, two things remain constant; flop opening pair and batting collapses. Nepal has tried several opening pairs in past few years, but still, the same problem is revolving around them. It has been a perennial problem for Nepal — one that they haven’t been able to tackle yet. As Nepal recently appointed temporary batting coach, Umesh Patwal said to ( Nepallive.com ) before leaving for Zimbabwe, they can’t change the things too much in such short period of time so they will stick with whatever they have and will try their best to take out best possible outcome from their opening pair. This clearly suggests that we will witness the same pair opening the inning for Nepal. If you go into Nepal’s individual batsmen ability, they are talented and capable to take match home single-handedly; only thing they lack is performing in a unit. So, if Nepalese batsmen performed in unit then the tag of underdogs, unpredictable will remain on paper only.

What Expert Says –

We contacted Rajan Shah (@momocricket), creative director of Dhangadhi Premier League to throw some question towards him and his answers are like

How far do you see Nepal in this competition?
It is a tough tournament. I think it will be more difficult to compete against fellow Associate teams than Test teams. For test Nations we are an unknown entity, we may lose or win but we can have our moments we can capitalize on. Associate teams are as hungry and desperate to prove a point that they belong in the cricket’s map and will leave no stone unturned to make it as far as possible. No matter how big a team is, it all boils down to who fares better in a pressure situation. We have beaten (barring Zim) all the teams in past, there is every possibility we can do it again. Momentum is with us. With continuous regular cricket in recent time, we are improving by each match. Realistically speaking, getting ODI status should be our minimum target.

Do you see any changes in Nepal’s starting XI and batting order (especially in opening slot)?
– I don’t think chopping and changing will help. Same XI for me that played in Div 2. I get it that our opening is struggling but we should keep faith on a winning combination that gave us second finish in Div 2. Malla is one of the best stroke-maker in the team, he is a very experienced bloke to have in this type of tournaments despite struggling off late. Form or runs can be replaced, but experience cannot. But I understand that time might be of the essence and we will need to start looking for other options if he delivers another disappointing series. We already know how Lamichhane has changed the dynamic of the team keeping Gauchan out of the XI. So yeah, same XI for first few matches and necessary changes accordingly later

What are fans expecting?
I guess I shouldn’t remind you the fan following of Nepali cricket. With now Afghanistan claiming test status, Nepal is unarguably top associate nation in terms of fan following. So it will remain incomplete without including fans expectation. We turn our head towards Bhanu Sigdel, president of Nepali Cricket Supporters Society (NCSS) to know the fans expectation from their national cricket team.

“Being a supporter of Nepal cricket team, we surely want our team to qualify for ICC World Cup 2019, But its high-level tournament where four test playing nations along with top associates will fight out for just two remaining spots of the World Cup. But we are pretty confident about our team’s performance as per their merit and their place in Super Sixes. Claiming ODI status is undoubtedly Nepal’s first priority”.

First Fixture Venue stats (Queen Sports Club)
Match Played – 74
Victory of batting first side – 27
Victory of batting second side – 39
No result/tied – 08.

Weather (2018/03/04)
Weather isn’t ideal for the game. According to forecast, there is 41% probability of rain in Nepal’s first fixture against Zimbabwe. However, Nepal won’t mind shortening the over as far as the match would take place.

Nepal’s Fixture Of Tournament
4th March – Nepal vs. Zimbabwe, Queen Sports Club.
8th March – Nepal vs. Scotland, Queen Sports Club.
10th March – Nepal vs. Afghanistan, Bulawayo Athletic Club.
12th March – Nepal vs. Hong Kong, Queen Sports Club.

SQUAD
P Khadka (C), G Malla, D Nath, D Airee, S Vesawkar, A Sheikh, R Paudel, S Kami, B Regmi, K KC, S Lamichhane, S Gauchan, L Bhandari, A Sah, Lalit Rajbanshi.

FeatureImage – @CricketRaman

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