Middle-order mainstay Sharad Vesawkar was recalled on Sunday as national team head coach Umesh Patwal announced a 14-member final squad for the upcoming ICC Twenty20 World Cup Asia Regional Qualifier.
Nepal are competing in the five-team Regional Qualifier from where only the winners will make it to the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Global Qualifier to be hosted by the United Arab Emirates in October and November this year. The top six teams from the Global Qualifier will make it to the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Australia.
Vesawkar, a regular member of the senior side, had missed quite a few tours lately due to injury and illness. He had to lose Nepal’s historical One-Day and Twenty20 International series triumphs against the UAE in January and February earlier this year due to acute Vitamin D deficiency. Now fit, Vesawkar finds his place amidst an intense competition for a place in the team.
“He is one of the best players Nepal has. He was not well the last time (during the UAE tour) when we were in action. He is the first choice whenever he is available for us,” Patwal told a press conference on Sunday. The squad also sees the inclusion of Rohit Kumar Paudel, who along with Aarif Sheikh, featured in the last ODI series but sat out for T20 internationals.
“We are always looking for people to fit in at the right time. We are not dropping players but choosing players who are running with the best form. We are looking for the characters who fit in the family and Rohit is just that. He is the captain of the U-19 team, who has a big record for the senior team. We want to inspire him playing alongside the seniors and prepare him for the future,” clarified Patwal.
Sheikh this time has been kept as reserves along with Sushan Bhari, Jitendra Mukhiya and Kushal Bhurtel. Emerging cricketer Sandeep Jora, who had slammed a world record half century against the UAE in the first Twenty20 International on January 31, and Bhim Sharki were ignored. Jora entered the record books to become the youngest to reach that milestone in the T20 at 17 years and 103 day, scoring 46-ball 53 against the UAE in Februray.
Sharki was included in the UAE tour but didn’t play a single match. Other members from that UAE tour were retained. Paras Khadka will lead the Nepali side that also includes Gyanendra Malla, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi, Sandeep Lamichhane, Dipendra Singh Airee, Pradeep Airee, Binod Bhandari, Pawan Sarraf, Abinash Bohora and Basanta Regmi.
Nepal are also scheduled to play a two-match Twenty20 international series against Malaysia before they leave for Singapore. Although Nepal are ranked way above Malaysia at the 11th spot in the ICC Twenty20 international rankings, skipper Khadka said it doesn’t matter as long as they keep playing against any opponent to fine tune their preparations for the Regional Qualifier. Malaysia are ranked 33rd.
“We approached other nations who are ranked above us but they are going with a busy schedule. We know that Malaysia are below us in the rankings but we will take it because we will have a good preparation there since the conditions are similar to that of Singapore,” said Khadka adding the team was excited to go on a new venture with a new coach.
“Its not that he (Patwal) is new to us. He has been with us for a long time and knows every one of us really well (when he was national team batting consultant). There has been a change in our training procedure and we are eager to convert that into performance in international matches. All the guys are very excited to begin this new journey with the new coach,” the captain added.
SQUAD: Paras Khadka (capt), Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Vesawkar, Sompal Kami, Karan KC, Basanta Regmi, Sandeep Lamichhane, Lalit Narayan Rajbanshi, Rohit Kumar Paudel, Binod Bhandari, Pradeep Airee, Dipendra Singh Airee, Pawan Sarraf, Abinash Bohora. Coach: Umesh Patwal