Eyes on title, women cricketers leave for Thailand today
KATHMANDU, Jan 20: Nepali women´s national cricket team is all set to fly to Thailand on Monday to participate in the ACC Women´s Championship with their eyes on the title.
Though Nepal had finished runner-up in the first edition of the championship when the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) introduced the tournament in 2007, Nepal had to settle for the third and fourth position in the second and third editions respectively.
"We used to train for a week or two in the past. We conducted a closed-camp training for almost five weeks this time. So, we are well-prepared," said coach Jamil Ansari at a farewell function organized by the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) in the capital on Sunday.
National Sports Council (NSC) Member Secretary Yuvaraj Lama, CAN Vice-president Keshav Ghimire and General Secretary Ashok Nath Pyakuryal bade farewell to the team led by Rubina Chhetri.
"The fans and the country have high expectations from you but don´t feel pressure," said Lama, addressing the women cricketers at his office. "Give your best performance, give your 100 percent on the field."
Captain Chhetri and coach Ansari both vowed not to return empty-handed from Thailand. "After seeing the confidence of these girls, I´m confident that we will not return home empty-handed," said coach Ansari.
"During the closed-camp training, we not only attended practice sessions but also attended theoretical and motivational classes. We have the confidence, and we will win this time," said captain Chhetri.
Coach Ansari said that following the batting debacle in the ACC Women´s T20 Asia Cup, his team focused on batting during the closed-camp training.
Nepal was all out for 58 runs while chasing a 79-run target against Sri Lanka in the first match of the T20 Asia Cup held in China in October. Likewise, Bangladesh had bowled Nepal out for 45 runs and to add to Nepal´s woes, associate cricket nation China had also bundled Nepal out for a paltry total of 47.
"We have prepared the team and addressed the mistakes we committed in China," said Ansari.
"We have a balanced team. As we have focused more on batting this time I hope batting will not be our problem. It could instead become our strength along with our bowling," said Chhetri, speaking to media after the farewell.
Nepal has been drawn in Group A of the tournament to be held in Thailand from January 23 to 31. Nepal will take on Bhutan in its first match on Thursday and lock horns with the UAE on Friday in the second group stage match. Nepal will then play against Malaysia on January 27 and against Hong Kong on January 28.
"As we are aiming for the title, we have to take every opponent seriously," said Ansari, when asked about the tough opponents in the tournament.
ACC Women´s Championship, a 25-over tournament, is the first step toward Women´s World T20 qualification. The winner of the championship will qualify for the Women´s World T20 Qualifiers to be held in Ireland in August.