Wasim Akram: Cricket interest in Nepal is humongous and only going to get bigger

Fast-bowling great impressed by passion for game in Nepal, whose side are set to face Pakistan and India in Asia Cup 2023

Pakistan legend Wasim Akram has saluted the progress made by Nepalese cricket. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Little has been spoken of the third side in India and Pakistan’s Asia Cup group, but one of the continent’s greats says he is well aware of the growth of the game in Nepal.

Nepal will play in the top tier of Asian competition for the first time over the coming days, starting against Pakistan in Multan on Wednesday. They then face India in Kandy on Monday.

The majority of talk ahead of the competition has inevitably centred on Saturday’s clash between India and Pakistan.

But Wasim Akram, a World Cup-winner with Pakistan in 1992, suggests the rise of the other team in their group should not be neglected.

The former fast bowler says he has seen images of matches in Kathmandu showing frenzied support for the national team.

When Nepal clinched their place at the Asia Cup, thousands of supporters stayed for hours on the uncovered banks of the Tribhuvan University ground as rain played havoc with their final against the UAE.

As the players returned a day later to play the game to a finish, the ground was again over capacity, with thousands watching on from beyond the perimeter wall, with many viewing the action from nearby trees.

That is customary for big matches involving Nepal’s national team, and Wasim says it speaks of a great passion for the game there.

“I have been following Nepal,” Wasim said, speaking at the Asia Cup trophy unveiling in Dubai.

“They qualified and have done really well. Cricket interest is humongous there. I have seen the pictures from one of the matches where the stadium was packed, and half the people were sitting in trees outside.

“That is the passion for the game, and it is only going to get bigger and bigger. Congratulations to Nepal for the way they have qualified.

“Now they just have to improve their structure, the first-class and domestic set- up, then they can start to compete with the top teams.”

Many in Pakistan are still stung by the fact they have had to cede most of the matches in a tournament they have hosting rights for.

The Indian government ruled their team would not tour Pakistan, leading to the tournament becoming a hybrid of matches in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Wasim thinks it is positive that Pakistan did not follow suit and opt against touring India for the World Cup.

“India-Pakistan is very important,” Wasim said. “There are so many eyeballs, so many people giving so much support.

“Pakistan’s government have given permission for Pakistan to travel to India.

“I always maintain that politics and sport should be apart from each other. People to people contact is very important and the average Indian and Pakistani does love and respect each other, so I hope sanity prevails.”

Updated: August 29, 2023, 9:29 AM