Nepal is playing its first Asia Cup which will be played simultaneously in Pakistan and Sri Lanka from August 30 onwards. It is the proudest moment for this young cricketing nation. But can they put behind these performances and bounce back in the Asia Cup, where they are paired with heavyweights like India and Pakistan?
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Three Nepal Players to Watch Out for in Asia Cup 2023
Nepal cricket is not going through the best of times. They had a disappointing campaign in Zimbabwe during the ODI World Cup Qualifiers, winning just one match out of four games in the group stage.
Sandeep Lamichhane, their most prominent face, was accused of raping a 17-year-old in a hotel room in Kathmandu, after which he was arrested and stripped of Nepal captaincy. Although he made a comeback in the ODI qualifiers, the controversies surrounding him showed on team morale.
Lamichhane could still be the guiding light for Nepal since he has the most exposure among his teammates. Besides Lamichhane, we have picked the likes of opening batter Kushal Bhurtel and pace bowler KC Karan.
● Kushal Bhurtel
The 26-year-old Bhurtel opens the batting for Nepal. He made 99 runs in the opening match of the ODI World Cup qualifiers against host Zimbabwe, which helped Nepal post a respectable total of 290. He was Nepal’s top-scorer in the qualifiers, with 213 runs in six innings.
In the 2023 Asia Cup, Bhurtel is expected to score loads of runs. He has an upright batting stance and is very good through the off-side. The challenge will be stiff against teams like India and Pakistan, and the right-handed batter will have to apply himself. Bhurtel is also a handy slow bowler, with four wickets to his name in ODIs.
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● KC Karan
Karan is an experienced player who made his international debut in 2015. Since then, the fast bowler has made a name for himself as he has worked on his bowling quite a lot. He is just reaching his peak, and it showed in the ICC ODI Qualifiers in Zimbabwe, where he picked up 12 wickets for Nepal, including four-wicket hauls against the USA and Ireland.
The 31-year-old, who has 73 wickets in 46 ODIs, can also contribute with the bat in the lower order. Karan could trouble Pakistan and India batters in the upcoming Asia Cup with the new ball. He will be keen to make an impression in Nepal’s biggest tournament ever.
● Sandeep Lamichhane
The 23-year-old made his debut in 2018. Back then, he was 17 but not short on talent. The left-arm spinner became the poster boy for Nepal Cricket in 2018 when Delhi Capitals picked him up in the IPL 2018 auction. Lamichhane’s spin bowling can do the trick on pitches like Sri Lanka and Pakistan, as he is expected to get a good bounce and turn on these turning tracks.
The only issue is the one that is off the field. In 2022, Lamichhane was accused of raping a 17-year-old. He lost his captaincy and was suspended by the Cricket Association of Nepal for some time. However, his recent performance in the ODI World Cup qualifiers, where he picked up seven wickets, has proved he can bounce back.
Here are some of the T20 leagues in which Lamichhane has featured so far:
Nepal captain Rohit Paudel, Dipendra Singh Airee, Gulsan Jha, Bhim Sharki, etc., are a few other players to watch in the Nepal squad.
Nepal is not expected to advance past the preliminary stages in Asia Cup 2023, where they are paired with India and Pakistan. Their recent performance in ODI World Cup qualifiers doesn’t exude confidence. However, watch out for Bhurtel, Karan, and Lamichhane in the tournament.