His players call him ‘The Godfather’. Former Sri Lankan batting great Roy Dias, currently coach of Nepal, speaks candidly about the challenges facing him and his team.
“I was asked by a BBC journalist after Nepal won the U-19 ACC Trophy in Kathmandu (his first tournament in charge of the team) ‘how do they even play cricket in Nepal, aren’t there hills everywhere? ’"
“A fair question because we have many hills, but there is one decent ground and all those who want to play cricket come there. Whatever surface they play on, these players have talent."
Three years later, eight of that original team are still with him and have built on their skills. Watching them practice, one can see that there’s terrific team spirit amongst them. They are genuinely all comfortable with each other – while being rather fearful of their coach!
Typically wiry, Nepalese are more likely to be spinners than fast bowlers. “They’re naturally athletic, though I think that if we could widen our catchment area, take hold of those boys who think nothing of going up and down mountains for miles to get their milk, then Nepal cricket would be even stronger. For example, the Sri Lankan national team made some major improvement once they started recruiting from the outstations. That’s where they find the fast bowlers. They don’t need gym or strength work. It’s al natural.”
Nepal has achieved considerable success in all their age-group representative matches since Roy Dias took over as national coach, with the U-15, U-17, and U-19 teams playing some stirring cricket. In the U-19 World Cup in New Zealand they lost a close game to an England side full of county cricketers and then beat Pakistan in the tournament’s most thrilling upset.
That match set a pattern that has been repeated a number of times: they seem to beat Bangladesh whenever they play them and have even beaten New Zealand when defending a score of 123, they bowled them out for 107. Most recently in the match between Malaysia and Nepal at the 2004 ACC Trophy, they took the last 8 Malaysian wickets for just 51 runs to win by 25 runs
There are so many teams with talent, so many talented former internationals coaching them – Sandeep Patil of Oman, Abid Ali the UAE, Robin Singh of Hong Kong, Ruwan Kalpage of the Maldives. Kiran More of Bhutan, Nayan Mongia of Thailand. What distinguishes Nepal is that never give up and keep fighting with a passion to the very end. Gurkha spirit, underdog spirit, call it what you will. While other teams in the region may find it hard to summon the necessary desire and self-belief for whatever reason, to a man, the Nepalese cricketers have what it takes.
Next Page | “Every player is different. Some need to be treated with delicacy, others need to be shouted at.”