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Examining Nepal's place among the best ODI teams - do they deserve to be in the top 13 teams?

The ICC are mulling a league by 2019 to provide context to ODI cricket. We examine Nepal's credentials in being included in the league.

Nepal cricket team
Members of the Nepal Cricket Team assemble in Dharamshala for a training camp in 2015

One day cricket must be nervously looking over it’s shoulder as it’s younger brother - the newer, shorter, fresher format of the game, played over 20 overs has taken the world by storm. Not long ago, 50 over cricket enjoyed a similar kind of status, when it came and revolutionised the way cricket was played nearly 35 years ago now. Kerry Packer introduced World Series Cricket 8 years later, and there was no looking back. Coloured jerseys, aggressive cricket, hard-hitting, shorter spells of bowling, it was confirmed as the future. 

Now, in 2016, T20 cricket, the shortest version of the game, is at the peak of its popularity, with domestic leagues being conducted all over the world. The success of the IPL led to the birth of the Caribbean Premier League and the Big Bash League among others. Cricketers are making a living by playing T20 cricket exclusively around the world. The bigger brother, ODI cricket is worried about the growing shadow that T20 cricket is casting over it.

Read: The definitive ranking for cricket teams across the 3 formats

Also: ICC mull league for ODI, Test cricket

ODI cricket is stuck in a bit of a crossroads, stuck somewhere in the middle, between new-age fans who absolutely love the 4 hour spectacle of Twenty over cricket, and the traditionalists, who will never sway from their love of Test cricket. For the ICC, to which, ODI cricket retains its position as the premier format of the game, with the ICC World Cup remaining to be its crown jewel, something had to be done. 

And thus it was, with a view to provide context to a multitude of bilateral series otherwise devoid of context. The International Cricket Council (ICC) is said to be planning on creating a new One-Day International (ODI) league of the world's top-13 cricket playing nations, starting 2019. This league is believed to comprise the 10 Test playing nations along with Ireland, Afghanistan and Nepal.  The league will see teams play each other over three years, with the top two nations playing a play-off series, constituting either three or five games, to determine the league champion. Each team would play a three-match series against every other opposition, coming up to 36 ODIs per side over three years. The fourth year will be reserved for World Cup preparations. This structure will also guarantee a set number matches for teams outside the 'Big-9' of ODI cricket - like Ireland, Nepal and Afghanistan - providing them opportunities to develop their teams. 

Essentially, the ICC are mulling an entire revolution of the way One-day cricket is played around the world, a change that would rock the very core of the setup we have seen for years. While Ireland and Afghanistan have merited their place in the 13 team league with their relatively good performances recently, questions do loom over Nepal’s inclusion.

Nepal’s official status.

Nepal is an Associate Member of the ICC. The ICC defines an Associate member as, ‘The governing body for cricket (recognised by the ICC) of a country, or countries associated for cricket purposes, or a geographical area, which does not qualify as a Full Member but where cricket is firmly established and organised.’  Other prominent ICC Associates include Afghanistan, Hong Kong, Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland. 

Since 2005, the ICC has granted temporary ODI and T20I status to six other teams. Teams earn this temporary status for a period of four years based on their performance in the quadrennial ICC World Cricket League. The following six teams currently have this status: Ireland, Scotland, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Papua New Guinea. Based on this alone, it would be a surprise if Nepal was included. 

Has Nepal been included on a whim? Certainly not so.

It’s receiving the ICC’s support 

The ICC suspended the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) in view of government interference in the board. The ICC took the decision during a board meeting in April while it ruled that Nepal could still participate in ICC events. "ICC management will also now work with the Nepalese cricket community, and other stakeholders, in order to assist with the development of a sustainable governance and administration structure for cricket in Nepal.” The ICC was quoted as saying. 

Nepal’s remarkable show of strength 

Just a mere year after the country was hit by a devastating Earthquake that killed thousands, the ICC collaborated with the local cricketing community to show off the country’s tremendous resilience and ability to bounce back by hosting Namibia for two World Cricket League matches at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan University Ground Oval. This was the very first time that Nepal was hosting a World Cricket League Championship match and the crowds pronged to the ground. It was a sell-out as 10,000 people filled into the stands, and there was a same number or even a greater one outside the stadium. Nepal won both the games it hosted. 

Cricket crazy fans

Nepal represents a huge market for the ICC, with interest in the game at an all-time high. This is one of the main reasons as to why the ICC is pushing Nepal forward when it comes to the race for the 13 teams to be included in the league. With distinguished cricket playing nations, like India and Pakistan, Nepal would be the perfect nation, given it’s strategic location to join the fray. The commercial aspect should certainly be considered, with the ICC mulling a chance in it’s pattern of broadcasting rights in connection with the proposed ODI league. 

According to it, each board will continue to sell rights for its home territory and avail of those profits entirely as is already the case. But each board will place the rights to telecast its home series in overseas markets in a common pool into which other boards will also put those rights. The rights in the common pool will then be sold collectively as bundles by a committee of Full Members and the profits will be divided and distributed in certain percentages to the contributing boards. 

With a waiting audience, they are sure to benefit from the such a move. 

Nepal cricket team fans worldwide 

Nepal are scheduled to play a 50-over friendly match against the world’s oldest club, MCC on July 19 in a game that will mark the 200-year bilateral relationship between Nepal and the United Kingdom. “We are eager to welcome the Nepali team. Its a matter of pride for us and a chance to do something for the country,” said Sarala Paudel, a fan of the Nepal cricket team. 

The Nepali community is working to draw around 10,000 fans for the game. Hosts MCC has also prepared to bring spectators from the English, Pakistani, Sri Lankan and Indian communities. Embassy of Nepal, Non-Resident Nepalese Association, Nepal Tourism Board in UK are helping organisers in making the event a big success.

Several other organisations are also preparing to felicitate Nepali cricket team for its recent achievements at the international stage. MCC has already declared to give away 50 percent revenue collected from tickets sales for Nepal’s post-Great Quake rebuilding, while the rest of the amount will be invested in the Nepal’s cricket development. 

Merit 

Nepal should look to go the Afghanistan way, who impressed on the world stage during the current T20 World Cup and where the game is growing leaps and bounds. After upstaging Namibia at home, Nepal are currently sixth in the World Cricket League Championship. If they manage to retain or improve this position, they will have a chance to qualify for the next world cup which will be a huge achievement for them.  

Represents the biggest market

Nepal represents a bigger open market, waiting for cricket in comparison to the Netherlands, UAE and Hong Kong, who certainly have the talent in their sides but lack a mass following of the game. In order to grow the game, the ICC needs to assess the viability and the potential benefits of entering a market and Nepal represents the biggest market there.

Thus, Nepal definitely benefit their place in the proposed 13 team ODI league. We shall wait for official confirmation from the ICC as to the 3 teams that will join the other 10 Test playing nations, but these are certainly exciting times in the world of cricket.

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