Nepal make their official full international status return on Sunday, when they face the Netherlands in a T20 International at Lord’s in London.
The game is the final match of a triple-header played that day at the venerable ground in St John’s Wood. Both sides will face an MCC XI led by Mahela Jayawardene earlier in the day in what promises to be a thrilling day for fans of associate cricket, and especially for the two countries concerned.
The game is the latest landmark in Nepal’s rise as a cricketing nation. Enjoying feverish support at home, the national side has risen through the Associate ranks on the field whilst facing turmoil off it, with its governing body having been suspended by the ICC. They have been in official T20I status wilderness since 2015 when they played the last of their eleven official international in the format.
The game against the Netherlands was granted official T20 International status by the ICC in June after Nepal’s historic qualification as an ODI team was secured at the World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe. They will make their ODI bow against the Netherlands in Amsterdam next week.
For the Dutch, that ODI series will see their own return to the official 50-over international ranks, having regained their status by virtue of winning the ICC World Cricket League in 2017. They have held T20I status for several years however, and are much more experienced in the format than their opponents here.
Of course, cricket is rather unique in its obsession with status, but the elevations do give this game, and the ODI series that follows it, extra significance.
Both sides have fond memories of Lord’s. The Netherlands famously stunned hosts England in the opening game of the 2009 World T20 at the ground, whilst Nepal famously played the MCC there in 2016.
The match will be the Netherlands’ 50th in the twenty over format, having won 26 and lost 21. For Nepal, this game will be their twelfth official T20I in the record books, although they also had four games abandoned without a ball being bowled (and hence not counting towards official totals) in a ill-fated series against Hong Kong in Sri Lanka in 2015. In their eleven games, they have won three and lost eight.
Remarkably, given Nepal’s nascent status, this will be the fifth official T20I between the two sides – the Netherlands leading 3-1 currently, although Nepal took out their last status meeting in Rotterdam in 2015.
Nepal have named a 15-man squad for the match. Four men have played in all eleven of their team’s official T20Is to date – Basant Regmi, Gyandendra Malla, Sompal Kami and skipper Paras Khadka – who will all be looking to keep their 100% records alive.
By contrast, there are six potential international debutants in the squad: Aarif Sheikh, Dipendra Singh Airee, Lalit Bhandari, Rohit Kumar, Lalait Rajbanshi and Anil Sah.
If Rohit Kumar is selected, at age 15 years and 331 days he will become the second youngest player to ever play in an official T20 international, after Hong Kong’s Waqas Khan who was 72 days younger when he made his bow – ironically against Nepal – in 2014.
The Netherlands have been buoyed by the late inclusion in the squad of Essex captain Ryan ten Doeschate released from county cricket duty, as well as the return to the squad of Otago all-rounder Michael Rippon, able to play during the New Zealand winter. They too have several players in the squad that could make their international debut.
One very intriguing statistical oddity will likely occur during the game. Nepal’s wunderkind legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane is poised to make his T20I debut for his country – but not his debut in the format overall. He made that bow in the recent Hurricane Relief game for the ICC Rest of The World XI vs the West Indies. Given where that game was played, Sandeep will have the unique honour of making his international debut for two separate sides both at Lord’s ! Not bad for a 17 year old!
Above: Sandeep Lamichhane
A fabulous day awaits on Sunday at the home of cricket