A pat from Rahul Dravid does not come easily. But on Saturday in Kuala Lumpur, Nepal’s Under-19 team received just that after upsetting India in the Asia Cup.
Dravid, the India Under-19 coach, walked up to this counterpart Binod Kumar Das, a former Nepal captain, to offer his congratulations and support, adding to the euphoria of the opposition dressing room.
“Dravid has been very humble. He congratulated us,” Das told ESPNcricnfo after the victory. “He said we deserved this win as much as anybody else. He also said we played better than anybody else in the tournament. We are happy he acknowledges our effort. We are thrilled to have his support with us.”
Apart from the approval of one of the greats of the game, Nepal claimed another massive prize. “We are all very excited about it because we have never beaten India at any level,” Das said. “Knowing India’s strength it is one of the biggest wins for us.”
It was a low-scoring scrap, with Nepal putting up only 185 in their 50 overs, but Das knew the chase would be difficult on a pitch that assisted spin. “We can take a lot of pride in fielding and also in our bowling. Today was another example of executing that. India got off to a good start, but we managed to pull them back.”
India were in the ascendancy at 91 for 1 in the 23rd over before Dipendra Singh Airee took 4 for 39 to upset the defending champions. The result appears even more incredible considering India had pummeled the hosts Malaysia by 202 runs in the tournament opener. But Das said that match had been played on a flat pitch at Kinrara Oval. This one at Bayuemas Oval was far slower. And it turned a part-time bowler into a match-winner.
“Dipendra is not our main spinner, but he has been pitching good areas in recently. He actually has been our stop-gap bowler but he was our best bowler today. Assisting him were our legspinner Sandeep [Lamichhanne], who has been bowling well throughout the tournament, and left-arm spinner Shahab Alam. Then Pawan Saraf, too, was accurate. It was a collective effort.”
Das acknowledged the contribution of his fast bowlers, too, who bounced back during the end overs. “Both Kishor [Mahato] and Kamal [Airee] made a good comeback in the latter half of the match, which showed the depth of our bowling. It showed we could defend even a small target.”
Nepal had to protect a modest total on Friday too. They set a target of 181 against Bangladesh at Kinrara Oval after the match had been reduced to 40 overs due to rain. Bangladesh needed 10 runs off the final two overs and Nepal made them wait until the penultimate ball to secure victory. Having done even better on Sunday, Das said: “This victory against India has come as a big boost.”