Rohit Paudel insists Asia Cup qualification is just the start for Nepal after they beat the UAE to a place in the continental competition.
The home side thrilled a pulsating crowd at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu as they defeated their familiar rivals by seven wickets in a rain-affected ACC Premier Cup final.
It means Nepal will be pitched into a group with India and Pakistan at the Asia Cup in September.
The feat has been heralded by many as the greatest moment in the history of Nepal sport. But Paudel, the captain of the side, is hopeful it is the first of many such achievements.
“As a team, this is the beginning for us,” Paudel said. “We have just started, so there are many more to come, I think.”
For the second day in succession, thousands of supporters defied the abject weather forecast and flooded the muddy banks of the international cricket ground in Kirtipur.
On Monday, play had been suspended a little before noon after rain that had been steady but light since the start of play suddenly became a deluge. By that point, Nepal’s bowlers had reduced UAE to 106 for nine.
The playing conditions for the tournament mandated a reserve day for the final. It meant many thousands of people who had travelled hours to Nepal’s capital especially for the final had to make arrangements to stay the night.
They clearly managed it. Tuesday’s crowd was just as fervent as the previous day, and they were rewarded by seeing their national team take a momentous win.
Having eventually bowled the tourists out for 117, Nepal initially made a nervy start to their run chase.
The UAE opened with spin from both ends, and Rohan Mustafa – who ended with remarkable figures of two for 13 from 10 overs – and Aayan Khan reduced the hosts to 22 for three.
Teenage all-rounder Gulshan Jha settled the nerves, though, making 67 not out and sharing in an unbroken stand worth 96 with Bhim Sharki as victory was sealed.
“The biggest thanks go to the fans,” said Paudel, who credited coach Monty Desai with the decision to move Gulshan up the order to No 3 for the first time.
“Even in the rain they were waiting for us. We as a team are very grateful to them.”
Even in defeat, the UAE players appreciated being part of such an occasion. They have become used to being the supporting cast during such epic events in Kathmandu.
Back in the November, the ground was packed when Nepal clinched a bilateral series between the two. Similarly when Nepal claimed their 11th win in 12 one-day internationals and thus sealed their place in June’s World Cup Qualifier in Zimbabwe.
And now this elongated festival in the rain to seal Asia Cup qualification.
“I really love playing against Nepal and in Nepal as well, and I really enjoyed this crowd,” Muhammad Waseem, the UAE captain, said.
“I am very happy with the performance of my team the way we played throughout the tournament.
"We were unlucky in the final, but we will take positive points from this tournament and keep up this momentum and try to do our best in the next one.”
Vriitya Aravind, who was the leading batter in the competition, said the atmosphere at TU was “unreal” and believes the UAE’s battles with Nepal are great for the game.
“We don’t really get this experience in Associate cricket so coming to Nepal, it is always a good occasion for us,” Aravind said.
“Whenever us and Nepal play it is always a good game. We get some good cricket and I think [the rivalry] is good for cricket.”