KATHMANDU, Sept 29: Armed Police Force (APF) have formed a cricket team filled with national cricketers to compete in domestic cricket tournaments.
APF have signed national team captain Paras Khadka and 15 others as players while former national team player Raju Basnet will be the coach of the APF team.
Paresh Lohani, Rom Shrestha, Sanjay Kumar Shrestha, Dipendra Chaudhari have also signed the deal with APF. Meanwhile, vice-captain of Nepali national side Gyanendra Malla, Sharad Vesawkar, Subas Khakurel, Sunam Gautam, Prithu Baskota, Amrit Bhattarai, Ritesh Singh, Basanta Regmi, Sanjam Regmi, Shakti Gauchan and Mehboob Alam have also signed contracts.
Among the 16 players, eight were in the national team that played the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division-4 in Italy last month. Lohani and Chaudhari were left out of the tournament. Baskota, Khakurel, Shrestha and Gautam have represented Nepal in various age-group tournaments at the international level. Singh and Shrestha were regular players of Region No 3 Kathmandu, from where altogether 11 cricketers have left for APF.
This is the first time that any departmental club has formed a full-fledged cricket team. Nepal Police Club had also signed Binod Das, Manjeet Shrestha, Manoj Katuwal and Kanishka Chaugain some years ago, but they did not form a complete cricket team.
"The chief of our force (IGP Sanat Kumar Basnet) took initiative in forming a cricket team and SSP Durga Kunwar managed everything for it," said DSP Prem Shrestha, who gathered all the players to form the team.
"I first contacted Rom Shrestha and Paras Khadka, and through them we succeeded in signing the best available cricketers of the country," said Shrestha.
According to Shrestha, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) welcomed the decision of APF and has vowed to give technical assistance in preparing pitch at the APF headquarters, Halchowk. "We are planning for a formal launching of the APF cricket team before Dashain, if we finish preparing the pitch by then," said Shrestha.
All the players have joined APF signing contracts. However, DSP Shrestha said that the players who meet the criteria are also eager for in-service duty.
"We want to help in the institutional development of cricket in Nepal," said SSP Kunwar, who had also played regional tournaments of cricket representing Morang district in the past.
"We´ll participate in the upcoming domestic leagues organized by CAN. CAN has welcomed our initiative and vowed to help us technically," he added.
According to Kunwar, APF will form a team combining the national cricketers and the interested army personnel from within the force. "We have issued circulation to our departments and bodies, and found around 56 officers and rank-and-file who had played regional and national tournaments in the past. We will pick some of them and form a good cricket team," said Kunwar.
SSP Kunwar claimed that they have signed the 17 cricketers after following their performances on regular basis. "I personally have been following cricketers through media, and when the IGP ordered us to work toward forming a cricket team, we picked the best available cricketers," said Kunwar.
"We have picked them because they are good cricketers, not because they are in the national team," he added.
SSP Kunwar explained that APF as a new force are always pursuing new thoughts and they chose cricket as their new game. "Cricket is officially among the oldest games in the country, but it has gained popularity and status recently. So, APF got interested in cricket," explained Kunwar.
Kunwar also claimed cricket has the brightest future in Nepal and appealed other institutions to take initiatives in developing cricket and signing players.
He expressed confidence about the APF team doing well in upcoming domestic tournaments as their IGP himself is positive about cricket.