Team Chauraha Dhangadhi parades the trophy in Dhangadhi on Saturday, after winning the second Dhangadhi Premier League T20 cricket tournament. Photo: Rajan Shah/Republica
DHANGADHI, April 16: It was a fitting end to a tournament that exemplified the rise of the far-western part of Nepal in cricket. Team Chauraha Dhangadhi successfully defended its title and became two-time champions, defeating Kathmandu Goldens by 21 runs in the second edition of the Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL), which concluded Friday.
Chauraha is a local team from Dhangadhi which extended its participation in the DPL to continue its winning run that started from the Dhangadhi Cricket League (DCL) title, the first franchise and auction based sports event of Nepal.
Chauraha won the first tournament under Paras Khadka’s captaincy. However, in the second season, the owner went for a wholesale change in the auctions and once again found himself on the winning side under new captain Sompal Kami and a whole new set of players. The inclusion of the marquee signings in Rohan Mustafa and Ashfaq Ahmed was a great boost too for a team which lost the iconic captain from last season.
Ironically, Chauraha defeated Biratnagar in the first edition and Kathmandu in the second edition to claim the trophy. If history is anything to go by, most Nepali players came from these two regions of Nepal, while the capital Kathmandu remains the best shot for any aspiring cricketer to surge their career in cricket.
The current head coach of Nepal U-19 team and the coach for DPL franchise Mahdendranagar United, Binod Das, pointed out the most important thing that Dhangadhi has been able to do in recent times that most places in Nepal have not.
“There are two places in Nepal where most players are coming from: Dhangadhi and Bhairahawa. It is because they are hosting regular matches,” said Das, who is also a former captain of the national cricket team.
The leading wicket-taker of DPL and integral member of title-winning Team Chauraha, Lalit Singh Bhandari, won the Most Valuable Player title of the DPL. He is another example of the far-west’s native player making strides to the next level. The rise of Chauraha transcends the parallel success of Dhangadhi itself in organizing cricket event in Nepal. Against all odds, like Chauraha, DPL is a champion story of its own.
The culmination of franchise cricket has kept cricket alive in Nepal. Especially, after the suspension of the apex body of Nepali cricket administration, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). Subash Bahadur Shahi, the mastermind behind the most-loved cricket tournament Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL) in Nepal, holds the same iconic passion for cricket that Nepal is known for in world stage. He and his team started a revolution for cricket in the far-western part of Nepal which not only became a native identity but a worldwide sensation over the years.
There is no secret process or something different that he would have done to get this far, Shahi said. “It was all about understanding the situation. I was fond of cricket. So was my country and community, all I wanted to do was put up a platform where all can come together and carry it year after year,” said Shahi, the president of Dhangadhi Cricket Academy (DCA).
However, DPL is not an overnight success. Starting from Rs 25,000, the tournament has gone a long way to raise the first prize to Rs 2.5 millions. It was a journey that started eight years ago with Sudur-Paschimanchal Academy (SPA) Cup. It was a college-level tournament, and the Dhangadhi Cricket League (DCL) was its rival. The DCL was the first tournament that introduced franchise as well as auctions in Nepal. Later on, both the tournaments combined to became DPL
The gradual progress of DPL has much to credit its core members organizing the tournament with such finesses year after year. The tournament director Saurav Ojha believes the passion for cricket and community has kept the team going together and stronger after all these years.
“We were passionate about cricket and always wanted to do something for the city. We used to sit and talk about what can be done to push both. Our passion and dedication for cricket has kept us together and strong,” said Ojha, who works with Shree Airlines and understands how the corporate sector has been helpful in recent times. He added: “In recent times, corporate houses have understood the importance of cricket in a society. They are more open and willing towards the contribution in cricket. Shree Airlines is no different. I manage both accordingly.”
Hark Bohora, the hospitality manager for the DPL, is arguably the most-loved person in Dhangadhi during the DPL. Bohora works abroad and utilizes that 28-day yearly leave to come to Nepal and host the country’s top cricket event. “The development of cricket is directly related to tourism, with its potential to boost the standard of living here at Dhangadhi. Even if it may be a small support, an opportunity to help your community establish as a cricket hub in the nation has loads of perks that we want to achieve,” said Bohora. He added, “I just want Dhangadhi and the people of Dhangadhi to be known as must see or must visit place in Nepal by virtue of our hospitality”.
Organizing a tournament of that scale is not a laidback job. It brings loads of stress and complexity. For someone who started as a cricketer and now working as the coordinator, Prakash Khadka has seen it from both sides of the spectrum. Being in the shoes of the players or on the side of the organizers, he feels things have improved a lot from the heydays of SPA cup to DPL.
“DPL being a brand has helped us immensely. It is comparatively easier now than what we had at the beginning of the SPA cup,” said Khadka. He captained the SPA college team in first three seasons of the SPA Cup. Then he had to go to Kathmandu for further studies and had to miss the last edition of SPA Cup. He is now involved with DPL for the past two years as program coordinator.
“There are difficulties. To not say there can’t be any will be lying but still we are trying our best to do well in the given circumstances and I hope we have been able to put up a good tournament. We are already working on a plan to take this tournament to another level for next edition,” said a pumped Khadka, who is already working to make the next tournament bigger than the current one.
It is hard to find an example of something as big as the one DPL has created, which was fostered and prospered by the collective efforts of the locals of Dhangadhi. With a promise to be bigger and better next year, the current season of DPL has come to an end with home team Chauraha crowned champions once again.