KATHMANDU, Sept 29: "Coaching is challenging and I´m here to face it." Pubudu Dassanayake, the coach of Nepali national cricket team, said this exactly a year ago when he first arrived in Kathmandu to take the charge of Nepali team.
He promised to take Nepal into the ICC World T20 Qualifiers and to improve Nepal´s ICC´s World Ranking. He has met his goals and still sees more challenges since he is raising his own bar after every success.
"I´m happy with the progress we have attained in terms of conditions and resources available. However, I cannot relax until reaching the World Cup Qualifiers or the Division 2," said Dassanayake, who is busy training national squad for the upcoming ACC Trophy Elite to be held in the UAE from October 1.
In his first assignment, the Sri Lanka born Canadian coach guided Nepali team to the semifinal of ACC T20 Cup to secure berth in the ICC World T20 Qualifiers. During the qualifiers, Nepal finished seventh among the ICC´s associate nations.
He then guided Nepali national team to the title of the ICC World Cricket League Division 4 held in Malaysia earlier this month. The Division 4 victory not only took Nepal into the Division 3 but also reshaped Nepal´s World Cup dream.
"If we cannot go forward from Division 3, celebrating Division 4 victory will have no meaning, since we have to wait for two years to reshape it again. If we cannot achieve more success, there is no meaning of my stay here," the coach revealed his new challenges.
To achieve the successes in the last 12 months with the senior team, Dassanayake kept national players busy in cricket calendar and played pivotal role to arrange exposures to some of the cricketers in the foreign tournaments.
He arranged training session for Shakti Gauchan with Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals, sent skipper Paras Khadka to Canada to play professional tournament and arranged places for fast bowler Chandra Saud and Amrit Bhattarai in U-23 tournament of Sri Lanka. He arranged special training for Anil Mandal, Sharad Vesawkar and Gyanendra Malla in India. On the other hand, he engaged national players in training sessions regularly.
"I wanted to change the cricket culture of players on and off the field. Senior players must be role model for the upcoming players and for me, one can be a role model only with his hard work and proper training," said Dassanayake.
"Talent and ability wise, I had never doubted them but it was good to see them translating it into performance on the ground," he added.
However, Dassanayake also witnessed some lows in the last 12 months. Nepali U-19 team put up worst ever performance in the U-19 World Cup held in Australia last month.
Witnessing such a low, Dassanayake lamented that he could not work on the development side in the last one year. "The development side is yet to be touched on because of many reasons," said Dassanayake but didn´t reveal them.
"We have to develop bigger players´ pool and work in developing juniors and age group players if we dream of the World Cup," said Dassanayake. "I´ve developed a work plan for establishing National Cricket Academy (NCA) after consulting some senior players. I hope the CAN (Cricket Association of Nepal) would approve it soon," he added.
He was reluctant to discuss the NCA details before the CAN approves it but said it is like an organization to develop second string of players.
For Dassanayake, few days in Malaysia with the team maintaining winning streaks in the Division 4 were the most memorable days of the past 12 months. "Few days in Malaysia were memorable as things came into place during the tournament," said Dassanayake.
Despite of all the successes, he takes upcoming ACC Trophy Elite as the reality check of his side. "Things are moving well for us and the ACC Trophy would be the real time to check our standard against quality team like Afghanistan, the UAE, Hong Kong and Oman, who are above us in ranking," said Dassanayake.