Closed borders & souring relations between India and Nepal cast shadow on cricket ties | India News


DEHRADUN: The closure of the India-Nepal border due to Covid-19 and souring relations between the two nations have left a number of major cricket competitions and even local tournaments — which see packed stadiums and participation of players from both countries — in limbo.
Subash Shahi, chairperson of the Dhangadhi Premier League (DPL), a franchise Twenty20 cricket league in Nepal, told TOI that the “political situation between the two countries would definitely be considered before allowing Indian cricketers to take part whenever the next edition is held.”
Many Indian youngsters unable to get a break in the domestic cricket circuit are able to play as professionals in Nepalese cricketing leagues, a fact that Shahi attests to. “Performance of Indian players is a big draw for audiences in these matches. Our league allows only three foreign players in every franchise’s squad and 70% of the foreign players are Indians. Often, they are not big names in India, but in Nepal, they have a huge fan following.”
Binod Pandey, renowned cricket writer from Nepal, added, “Just like a Nepalese footballer attracts crowds in local Indian football tournaments, an Indian cricketer will get the attention of the Nepalese crowd even if he isn’t contracted by the BCCI.”
The cross-border cricket culture is a boon for budding players who get to display their talent in matches organised by cricket clubs in both countries. Birendra Chand, president of the Kanchanpur District Cricket Association in Nepal, said they hold an annual Indo-Nepal cricket meet for players from the two nations while cricketers from the association travel to Khatima (Uttarakhand) several times a month to participate in tournaments. Matches are also held in Indian cities like Haldwani, Gorakhpur and Varanasi.
But this year, organisers of local matches are a worried lot. Jagan Thapa, who runs a cricket club in Nepalganj, told TOI, “Academies from India arrive here every winter to play matches against local Nepalese academies but this time they have said that they will not be visiting later this year due to political tensions.”
A cricket tour organiser in Mumbai on condition of anonymity said that Indian clubs were hesitant to commit to any matches due to border tensions. “They want to keep an eye on the developing situation,” he said. In Nepal as well, an organiser of a prominent tournament told TOI that the invite to Indian players for matches will depend on the political atmosphere.
Those in the cricket fraternity expressed disappointment at the shadow the border dispute between the two countries had cast on the cricket ties. Satyajeet Sarkar, president of a cricket club in Bhairawaha (Nepal) and an international umpire said open border between the two nations has allowed Nepalese youngsters to hone their cricketing skills in Indian coaching academies.
Sarkar’s remarks were backed by Pandey who cited that a number of cricketers in the Nepal national team have hailed from districts bordering India such as Kanchanpur, Dadeldhura, Birganj, Biratnagar, Nepalganj and Dhangadhi. “Many players were able to polish their talent in Indian academies by taking advantage of their parents having a cross-border marriage or residing in India.”
These include famous Nepalese cricketers like Sandeep Lamichhane, Shakti Gauchan, late Ganesh Shahi and Sompal Khami, to name a few, said Pandey.
Dilip Nath, wicket-keeper for the Nepal national team who hails from the border district of Dadeldhura, said he played his initial matches in Indian cities like Dehradun, Pithoragarh, Haldwani and Rudrapur. “In our region, you hardly get to play on turf wicket and the teams aren’t very strong like in India. Practising across the border helped me develop my talent better. I later went to play for Nepal’s national team but very few people know that it was during a game in Pithoragarh where I performed very well that I was spotted,” said Nath.

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