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June 14, 2024, Friday
२०८१ असार २

Nepal’s Dallas diaspora and the sound of passionate silence

२०८१ जेष्ठ २४
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As Logan van Beek said, it was hard to tell if the game was in Nepal or Dallas ICC/Getty Images There are an estimated 15,000 Nepalis living in Dallas and there was room for less than half of them at the Grand Prairie Stadium, but they turned up to form a sea of blue and red and staged some of the eeriest silences the tournament has heard. Don’t get this wrong: there was cheering and lots of it, and there happy smiles and handwritten signs expressing pride in the Nepal national cricket team, but when Kushal Bhurtel was given out lbw in the fourth over, or when Max O’Dowd hit the six that put the Dutch the three runs away from the win, the sound was sucked out of the arena like a vacuum. Think back to the Ahmedabad crowd at the ODI World Cup final and imagine a similar passion a world away, among a much smaller group of people with seemingly much lower stakes. Or not. This is only their team’s opening game of the tournament, but it is perhaps the most important. Of the sides they would face in Group D – among them South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh – Netherlands and Nepal would have looked at each other and identified the opposition they must beat to stay relevant in the event. And unlike Amstelveen, Rotterdam or Kirtipur, where they have met most often in the past, they would have to do so in almost completely unknown conditions. All they had to go on was the tournament opener two days ago, which was high-scoring and saw the USA chase down 195 inside 18 overs against Canada. Only eight wickets fell in that game, and just six to the bowlers, and the weather was different this morning so perhaps that match was not a good measure of what to expect, especially today.

There was early rain on Tuesday, and the match was delayed by 30 minutes, Netherlands got “a bit of a read of the wicket,” as Scott Edwards said at the post-match presentation, and the bowlers responded beautifully. Vivian Kingma found swing straight away and bowled his full quota of overs upfront, albeit with no reward. What he did, though, was sow the doubt in the Nepal batters’ minds that the bowlers at the other end could reap benefit from. Tim Pringle, the left-arm spinner, flighted the final ball of his opening over, Aasif Sheikh tried to make room and got a thick edge to a short third. Pringle got a second in the over after Kingma finished when Anil Sah fetched a delivery from outside off to sweep and top-edged. By then, Logan van Beek had already removed Bhurtel and there had been three stunned silences. Rohit Paudel, Nepal’s captain, was a fan favorite all match long ICC/Getty Images “I’m not sure whether we are in Nepal or Dallas,” van Beek said at the halfway mark, but he was referring to the noise the Nepal fans made, mostly for their captain Rohit Paudel. At 21 years and 276 days old, he is the youngest captain at any T20 World Cup and on the evidence of his 37-ball 35 (the highest score for Nepal), among their most mature. He blamed himself for not cashing in a little more, even as he recognized the difficulties of batting first. “The overhead conditions were really challenging,” Paudel said. “Credit must go to Netherlands bowlers and as a batting unit, we could have done better, especially me, after getting a start of 30-35 balls. I missed out. But there were no partnerships and mini-partnerships in between.” Nepal’s highest stand was 25 between Paudel and Shah, after which they lost 8 for 66. They were unable to contend with the seam movement from van Beek and Paul van Meekeren and were disappointed with the total they put on the board although they showed heart in trying to defend it. Their seamers troubled the Dutch, who went into their shells and scored slowly.

Edwards admitted that “ideally we would have got that a little bit quicker”, but “it was a trickier wicket than we were expecting”. In the end, the real difference was in the fielding efforts. Van Beek, O’Dowd and Kingma held onto chances of varying difficulty in the deep, the result, van Beek said of an “awesome” training session on Monday and him being “on the guys of late that out-fielding must improve”. On the other hand, Nepal missed three clear opportunities. O’Dowd could have been run out 16 but the throw from short fine was wide and Abinash Bohara could not collect and release accurately enough. He went on to bat through and anchor the innings with an unbeaten 54. Later, Sompal Kami put down Vikramjit Singh on 19 and Paudel spilled a chance from O’Dowd on 40 in the 18th over at long-off. “That was crucial,” Paudel said. “If I had taken that catch, things would have been different.” It may have been too late because the Netherlands still had Teja Nidamanuru and van Beek to come but Paudel’s willingness to accept responsibility is admirable. As was his near-permanent smile from the time the toss took place to the end of the game, which widened when he was asked about the crowd. “I want to thank all of them. It felt like we were playing in Nepal,” he said. “As a team, we are very grateful to them. Thank you so much for supporting us.” The volume returned to their voices with that acknowledgment and they cheered once more.

The Nepali diaspora were drawn to Dallas for the strong job market and possibilities in education, and have established organizations such as the Nepali Association of Texas and the North Texas Nepalese Society, to serve as touch points for their community. Few things would have brought them together like seeing their national cricket team in action, albeit in a losing cause, because this is the only time they will see them. Nepal moved to Florida and then Saint Vincent and it’s unlikely many of the Dallas locals will be able to follow them. At least, they’ll always have today.