Paras Khadka's retirement
This past week long time Nepal international Paras Khadka announced his retirement from international cricket. The news was met by an outpouring of praise for his career on social media from both within Nepal and the wider cricketing world.
Few players can claim to have as much impact on a nation's cricket as Khadka. Describing a player as talismanic can be something of a cliche, but it really does apply to Khadka. For much of his international career, which began at the senior level in the 2004 ACC Trophy, Paras Khadka essentially WAS Nepali cricket. The fortunes of the national team were closely linked for many years. If he succeeded, Nepal succeeded. If he failed, Nepal failed. Khadka out all out was the belief for many of Nepal's opponents over the years.
He guided Nepal from Division Five of the World Cricket League all the way to ODI status, an achievement just as worthy of praise as Afghanistan's rise from the same level but often overlooked by many due to Nepal failing to qualify for a major global tournament other than the 2014 World T20 when Nepal played in the glorified qualifier of a first-round.
He first played for Nepal at Under-15 level in 2002, also playing at Under-17 and Under-19 level before making his senior debut against Bhutan in June 2004 aged just 16. It was an inauspicious start, with Khadka bowling just three wicketless overs and not being required to bat as Nepal outclassed their opponents. But he quickly established himself in the side and was appointed captain in 2009, holding the position until 2019.
If there is any criticism of Khadka it's that his captaincy could sometimes be too formulaic, with bowling changes seemingly planned in advance and strategies not adapting to the game situation. There were more than a few matches where teams were able to get back into the game after being on the back foot because Khadka wasn't bringing his strike bowlers back on to finish off the tail. But such criticisms are far outweighed by the positive impact he had on Nepal's cricket with both bat and ball.
At youth level he played in three Under-19 World Cups - only six players have played more U19 World Cup matches than him. It was a successful period for Nepal at Under-19 level. They beat four full members with Khadka in the side, with two wins against South Africa and one each against New Zealand and Zimbabwe. They finished 9th in the 2006 U19 Word Cup and 10th in the 2008 tournament, when Khadka was captain.
Across just over 16 years he played just over 250 times for Nepal, including ten ODIs, 33 T20Is and two Intercontinental Cup matches. His last match was against Thailand in a T20I in March 2020. He was set to play in the T20I series against Malaysia and Netherlands earlier this year but withdrew after testing positive for Covid-19. In a sign that Nepal have moved on past the days of Khadka being so key to their success, they were able to win the series without him.
He will nevertheless be sorely missed by Nepal. Nepal fans will doubtless hope that he stays involved with the national team in a coaching capacity - the knowledge he has gained from his career will be invaluable to the younger members of the team.
Seeing a player retire from international cricket aged just 33 is making me feel very old though...
News from the USA
The inaugural season of Minor League Cricket launched this past weekend with some success. For the opening weekend, 24 matches were scheduled, though one was abandoned without a ball bowled. All were live streamed, and the organisers have been great at promoting the league on their social media channels, with highlights available quickly.
Standards have been variable, as one would expect, but the key point here is that a nationwide T20 league in the USA is underway with a large number of teams involved. The organisational effort to coordinate fixtures and live streams for 27 teams has been immense. The regular season will continue until late September before a finals weekend in Morrisville, North Carolina in early October.
Less positive news in this writer's opinion though is the decision by USA Cricket to give official sanction to the American Premiere League. The league, set to take place at a baseball stadium in New Jersey next month, divides players on nationality and ethnicity lines and was advertising their match between their teams representing India and Pakistan with an incredibly tasteless video that played up the conflict between the two nations and presented the match as being part of a war.
Sanctioning a league like this reflects extremely poorly on USA Cricket. The new board was formed partially to move away from the past and unify the US cricket community. This league is doing the opposite.