Rohit Paudel said he was proud to lead Nepal to qualification for their second T20 World Cup.
The captain was at the wicket with player-of-the-match Aasif Sheikh when the host team clinched an eight-wicket win over the UAE in Mulpani.
It put them into Sunday’s final of the T20 World Cup Asia Qualifier. More importantly, it means they will be on the flight to the main event in the United States and the Caribbean next June.
Nepal have played at the tournament once before, in 2014 in Bangladesh, and Paudel said that tournament inspired a nation.
“I’m feeling very proud and lucky,” Paudel said. “We all grew up watching the 2014 World Cup.
“We were inspired by them. Now going to the 2024 World Cup I feel very lucky and proud of the group.
“They have been our role models, so to have them here to support us, we are very lucky. And in terms of the crowd, they were excellent.”
Paras Khadka, the captain of the side in 2014, was present at Mulpani. He is now the secretary of the Cricket Association of Nepal, and he was hard at work making sure the game against UAE went ahead without a hitch.
The game was played at the smaller of the two international grounds of Kathmandu. Even Tribhuvan University would not have been able to fit in all those who wanted to see the ground in person.
There were police checkpoints for miles around to ensure only ticket holders made it to the vicinity of the ground.
It had little effect. The roads and hills overlooking the ground were swamped with avid supporters, who lapped up an outstanding performance from their side.
The home team limited the national team to 134 for nine. The UAE were only able to make it that far thanks to a heroic half century from Vriitya Aravind, who was battling a hand injury.
Nepal chased it confidently, thanks to 64 not out by Sheikh. “It was one of the best innings I have seen, especially under that pressure,” Paudel said. “It was a great knock and I am very proud of him.”
Nepal had missed out on playing at the last T20 World Cup in Australia last year, after losing a winner-takes-all game against UAE in Muscat.
Muhammad Waseem, the UAE captain, was sad about the defeat, but wishes Nepal well in the World Cup.
“It is a part of the game: one team has to win, and one team will lose,” Waseem said.
“They played very well, very sensibly, so congratulations to Nepal. It was a very disappointing performance from us.
“Vriitya played a very good innings but I think we were short 25 to 30 runs on this wicket.
“[Nepal’s spinners] bowled very well, especially Kushal Malla. He took three wickets and after that our spinners couldn’t match that.”