Cricket-crazy Nepalis prepare for international T20 triangular tournament near Kathmandu

The game will return to the cricket-crazy nation of Nepal next month following the announcement of a tri-nations T20 tournament that will also feature Malaysia and the Netherlands.

The round-robin matches will be played at the Tribhuvan University Cricket Stadium in Kirtipur, three miles outside Kathmandu, with the top two contesting final at the same venue, which originally had a capacity of 20,000. The matches will be staged between April 17 and 24.

The ground, which first hosted international cricket in 1998, has had to be rebuilt in the wake of the the 2015 earthquake, which killed 9,000 people, with the addition of ground walls, a pavilion building, media box, view tower and VIP seating area completed or on their way. It is not quite Everest but it is a 750-ft climb uphill from the entrance to the university to get to the playing area.

It will be the first cricket for the hosts in a year after a tri-nations tournament they hoped to play in Oman against the home nation and the United States was cancelled because of Covid concerns.

Ryan Campbell, the Netherlands’ coach, said: “I am overjoyed. The boys have worked so hard for a year with so much uncertainty on when our next match will be. Nepal and Malaysia will present us with an extremely tough reintroduction to world cricket.”

Chatur Bahadur Chand, the president of the Cricket Association of Nepal, said he was grateful for the two touring sides’ help in organising the tournament at short notice, while his counterpart at the Malaysian Cricket Association, Mahinda Vallipuram said the event would serve as “morale-booster” for his team.

Nepal have had a good friendly rivalry as well as competitive one with both teams for a number of years, although, of late, more of their matches against each other have come in the 50-over format rather than T20. They played their first game after getting full ODI status in 2018 against the Netherlands in Amstelveen, losing by 55 runs, but in a second game in that series pulled off a remarkable one-run win.

Since then they have played a one-off “home” ODI against the UAE in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, and visited Dubai to play the UAE again before finally getting a genuine home game – in fact several – in round robin fixtures with Oman and the US in the World Cup Cricket League 2 last February. Sandeep Lamichhane, the leg spinner who has just signed for Worcestershire for this summer’s Vitality Blast, took six for 16 in one match as the US were bowled out for 35.

Nepal has proved an unlikely hotbed of cricket enthusiasm in recent years. When they were invited to play a one-day game against the MCC at Lord’s in the summer of 2016, nearly 5,000 fans showed up to support them while a live stream of the match was watched by 336,000. Two years later, a T20 triangular tournament with the MCC and the Netherlands, also at Lord’s, attracted 135,000 to a full-length replay of the game against the MCC, while 44,000 viewed the highlights; their match against the Netherlands, rained off towards the end of the Netherlands’ innings, drew 250,000 viewers.