Nepal cricketer dreams ODI status for country

Published: Tuesday, June 20, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:Aiming to become the first Nepalese to play county cricket, Aamir Akhtar hopes his troubled nation will get ODI status some day despite poor infrastructure, lack of sponsorship and unemployed players, who are forced to give up the game due to paucity of funds.

''Junior cricket in Nepal is booming but because of the lack of infrastructure, players in their late 20s -- who are mostly uneducated and unemployed -- leave the game because they can't find sponsorship,'' the all-rounder told BBC Sport after giving trials for County Club Surrey's Second XI.

The 25-year-old Business Administration student is optimistic about his chances of making it to the squad.

''Things have gone well and Surrey has shown some interest. If I keep performing and reach the standard required I might get a contract,'' he said.

Akhtar was part of Nepal's Under-19 team which qualified for the World Cup in 2000.

The all-rounder says he wants to play against bigger teams like neighbours India and Pakistan.

''Just imagine what would happen if we were playing India or Pakistan? We should also be looking to host triangular series between the India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka 'A' teams and then eventually have senior teams over for one-day internationals,'' he said.

However, Akhtar said the aspiration remains a distant possibility as their was not enough infrastructure in the country to support such a plan.

''We only have one stadium dedicated to cricket with a proper turf pitch, in Kathmandu. Everywhere else you have to play on matting and in stadia shared with other sports,'' he said.

''Our players are not exposed to other types of conditions, they only go abroad when they have to play in a tournament,'' he added.

But Akhtar is hopeful that things would change. He said the level of interest in the sport is such that the country would pick up slowly.

''I have seen boys playing near base camps in the Himalayas.

Traditionally it was played in the region near the border with India, which is where I am from, but it is spreading all over the country.'' ''They are among the best natural athletes in South Asia and one day we will get One-day International status but don't expect anything instant,'' he said.

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