Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Suraj Kumar: The India-born wicketkeeper with Nepal roots living his cricket dream with Oman

Cricketer's arrival in Muscat coincided with a significant advance in the game there, and the team are now striving to reach the T20 World Cup

Oman celebrate are well placed at the T20 World Cup Qualifier having won three of their four matches so far. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
Oman celebrate are well placed at the T20 World Cup Qualifier having won three of their four matches so far. Courtesy Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

Nepal may be conspicuous by their absence at the T20 World Cup Qualifier in the UAE, but they do still retain a tenuous association to the competition.

When the 14 teams were confirmed for this tournament, Nepal were the highest-ranked side in the world to miss out.

Despite being in 11th place in the T20 international standings at the time, they lost out on a trip here when Singapore beat them to the final place in Asian pre-qualifying.

Their absence has been keenly felt. Nepal’s gifted young side won one-day international and T20 series in Dubai in January and February, and they had a massive and vibrant following beyond the boundary. Without them, spectator numbers at the Qualifier have been minimal.

In absentia, the Nepali fans might feel an affinity with Oman, whose wicketkeeper, Suraj Kumar, has its roots in Baglung, a district in Nepal.

The 30-year-old keeper was born in Punjab in India, but his parents are from Nepal, and he was first inspired to play cricket by his Nepali uncle.

“It is unfortunate Nepal are not here, because if they were there would definitely be nice crowds cheering at the games,” Kumar said. “My mother’s brother used to play cricket, and I was inspired by him.

"Being part of an Indian community meant I started playing cricket when I was very young.”

Kumar relocated to Muscat four years ago, when he took up a job that allowed him to dovetail playing cricket with working in the sales department at a company that manufactures metal cans.

“I was looking for work in India, but my main priority was to play cricket,” he said. “I was not getting enough chances to play in India, and I was looking for an opportunity. A friend of mine referred me for a job in Muscat, and I took the job.”

Kumar’s time in Oman has coincided with a significant advance in the game there.

A new cricket facility in Muscat, inaugurated last year, has facilities that would be the envy of many non-Test playing nations.

Their national team have taken a number of big scalps in international cricket in recent years. That includes a win over UAE on Friday that has left them well-placed in the fight for one of the six qualifying berths for the T20 World Cup.

“We are positive,” Jatinder Singh, the Oman opener said, ahead of their next match against Nigeria, which starts at 10am at the Tolerance Oval in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

“We are focusing on our processes. There are ups and downs in tournaments, but we have to stay focused and treat every game as a final.

“We are going all out to beat any side. We are not judging the teams we face by their name. Whoever we face, we just have to beat them.”

Updated: October 23, 2019 03:36 PM

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