On Jan 3, Sachin Timalsena, a cricket commentator at Nepal T20 league, posted a video on his social media. Timalsena announced his resignation smelling “something fishy” in the tournament. He suspected spot fixing in the matches and offered some examples to prove his point.
The same day, the match between Kathmandu Knights and Biratnagar Super Kings was cut short to nine overs because of disputes in the field. The players refused to do the toss for the match scheduled for 8:30 am at the TU Cricket Ground, saying they were not getting paid.
Subsequently, the aggrieved parties sat for discussions with officials of Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). The talks ended with a pledge to pay the teams and match officials through cheque.
After the match, the captain of Kathmandu Knights and former captain of Nepal national team Gyanendra Malla said the organizers and team owners both were out of contact and nobody had taken responsibility for paying them. Malla said members of his team were approached for match fixing, adding that they had reported the matter to the anti-corruption unit of the league.
Subsequently, Home Minister Rabi Lamichhane ordered an inquiry and the Central Investigation Bureau has taken up the case.
A number of questions have arisen after this incident.
How did this happen? Why? And who is responsible? Is the Nepali cricket fraternity on a regressive road, again?
CAN, in 2020, had entered into a 91-page formal agreement with Indian Seven3Sports. Per the deal, Seven3Sports enjoys strategic, commercial and advisory rights of the Nepal T20 league, the first-ever such tournament organized with direct involvement of CAN. The current mess has raised questions on the credibility of the cricketing body.
Some sections of the cricketing fraternity had opposed the deal, pointing that Seven3Sports won’t be able to live up to CAN’s expectations, given its past records.
At that time, neither the National Sports Council nor the Ministry of Sports felt the need to intervene, though the deal was in contravention of laws of Nepal, which state that Nepal Sports Council must get approval from the government of Nepal before entering into any agreement with other international cricketing bodies.
The latest episode has tarnished the image of Nepali cricket. Yet another sad part of this saga is that CAN has not provided a good working environment for international coaches in Nepal.
In 2016, the International Cricket Council had suspended CAN for breach of ICC regulations. After three years, ICC reinstated Nepal as a member of cricket’s governing body on a conditional basis. Restrictions over economic funding were fully lifted in June 2022. This incident comes at a time when Nepali cricket was on the recovery path.
Failure to take action against those responsible for the latest incident of foul play may again lead to ICC action against the Nepali cricket. So, it’s time for responsible authorities like CAN, NSC and the ministry to wake up and take corrective action in the interest of Nepali cricket and its fans.