Remember when Kevin O’Brien said he couldn’t wait to play in front of the passionate cricket fans in Nepal? The Ireland batsman had made the claim while congratulating Nepal for gaining ODI status after its six-wicket win over Papua New Guinea during the ICC World Cup Cup qualifiers held in Zimbabwe during March this year.
“Congrats or @NepalCricket for gaining #odi status! Looking forward to our first tour to experience crowds like this,” the 34-year-old had posted on Twitter at the time.
The Dublin-born man had reiterated his wish of playing cricket in Nepal when pictures of leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane being mobbed by the nation’s media upon his return from a maiden stint in the IPL were circulating on social media.
Upon seeing the picture of the waiting media at the Kathmandu airport, O’Brien had tweeted, “What a picture!!! He will be the star of the country! Can’t wait to get to Nepal and experience the passionate fans!”
It seems that the Irishman is about to get his wish after he was announced as the first overseas signing of the season by Nepal’s Everest Premier League outfit Kathmandu Kings XI.
“Kathmandu Kings XI are happy to announce the first centurion for Ireland @KevinOBrien113 as 1st international player for this year’s TVS EPL. Many thanks to agent @niallnobiobrien for arranging the contract,” the franchise wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.
Kathmandu Kings XI are happy to announce the first centurion for Ireland @KevinOBrien113 as 1st international player for this year’s TVS EPL. Many thanks to agent @niallnobiobrien for arranging the contract pic.twitter.com/8j3pZ4WZyM— KathmandukingsXI (@kathmandukings) June 26, 2018
It seems that the Ireland star has his elder sibling and agent Niall O’Brien to thank for his dream of playing in Nepal near fruition.
The younger O’Brien sibling had announced himself to the cricket world after smashing the then fastest World Cup century in a clash against England in the 2011 edition held in India.
He then wrote himself into the record books once again this year as he became Ireland’s first Test centurion during their one-off maiden Test against Pakistan earlier. He will be in action on Wednesday when Ireland take on India in the first of the two T20s at Dublin.
The Everest Premier T20 League was launched in July, 2017 with six franchises participating. The 2017 edition of the tournament was won by Biratnagar Warriors. The second edition of the tournament is expected to get underway in November this year.
Sri Lanka require 63 runs more with five wickets in hand as they chase a victory target of 144 to not only register just their second Test win in the Caribbean, but also become the first Asian team to register a Test victory at the iconic Kensington Oval.
In 16 Tests at the venue against India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, the hosts have registered 11 wins. Bangladesh haven’t played at the venue as yet.
The wicket is Barbados has historically been one of the quickest in the world even though over the past few it has mellowed down.
However, for the third Test of the series, the curators presented one of the liveliest surfaces seen in contemporary West Indies cricket. In all, 20 wickets fell on the third day of the match with Sri Lanka looking to win the Test and square the series.
If Sri Lanka do manage to do it, it will be a remarkable achievement as they are without regular captain Dinesh Chandimal, batsman Angelo Mathews and spin veteran Rangana Herath.
In a sport where Twenty20 cricket continues to go from strength to strength with various major leagues on the calendar, the UAE players have found opportunities hard to come by – until now.
The Global T20 Canada, due to begin on Thursday, will see Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza, Shaiman Anwar and Mohammad Naveed aiming to fly the UAE flag high over the next fortnight after being selected during the draft earlier this month.
Before that, they have often been on the outside looking in whenever the major events are taking place. To date, only three UAE cricketers have been part of an international T20 tournament.
Chirag Suri is the most high-profile when he became the first player from the Emirates to be snapped up by Gujarat Lions in the 2017 IPL – although he was unable to get a single minute at the crease. Naveed has been involved in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz while Mustafa featured in a low-profile Nepal tournament in April where he was named player of the series.
With all the talent in the national team, it could have been more but the fact that Mustafa, Raza, Anwar and Naveed have all been recognised is a big boost not just for them but for the rest of their international team-mates.
All four are in real danger of missing the start of the league due to administrative issues to their visa applications but when they do arrive in Canada after a 14-hour flight from Dubai, expect them to make an impact.
They won’t be just there to make up the numbers. Naveed has established himself as one of the best pacers in Associate cricket and was once ranked 10th best in T20 cricket just nine months ago. Besides being lethal with the ball, he is also highly-rated by World Twenty20 winning captain Darren Sammy after the pair played in Hong Kong.
Mustafa has been one of the standout players for the UAE in the last 18 months, winning numerous personal awards for his efforts with the bat and ball. Spinner Raza has taken more 37 wickets in his 50 plus games for the UAE in this format, while Anwar’s stunning unbeaten 117 against Papua New Guinea is just a prime example of what he can do once he gets going.
Their familiarity of T20 which is widely played in the UAE will certainly be an advantage and with it being broadcasted globally, the cricketing world will be closely watching the tournament as well as keeping tabs on social media.
That’s because some of the biggest names in world cricket will be playing in North America. Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Sunil Narine, Darren Sammy and Tim Southee are just some of the stars who will be in action, while there will be a lot of intrigue on how David Warner and Steve Smith fare on their first appearances since that ball-tampering scandal in March.
With the elite in town, it will be difficult not to ignore the Global T20 Canada, making it the perfect opportunity for Mustafa, Raza, Anwar and Naveed to press their case and put themselves and other UAE players in the window for future T20 tournaments.
With the way they have been performing in the last 18 months, there’s no reason why they can’t do the same against the world’s best.