Hard hitting batsman Pradeep Airee made a comeback to the national team after more than three years as Nepal announced the 14-member squad for the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier Asia (Eastern Region) on Sunday.
Airee who lost his spot in the national team due to run of poor form coupled with rise of young cricketers has not played for Nepal since the 2015 ICC World Cricket League Championship match against Scotland on July 31. His last Twenty20 was the ICC World Twenty20 Qualifier match against Jersey in Dublin on July 18, 2015.
The World Twenty20 Qualifiers in Ireland and Scotland was one of the forgettable tours for Nepal which saw many national team regulars missing their places including Airee. Once the national team opener who was also tried at other positions, Airee hit form in the PM Cup One Day National tournament in June, while playing for Nepal APF Club.
Also back in the squad was Sharad Vesawkar. The middle order mainstay had to go through almost a two-month layoff after injuring his finger during Nepal’s first of the two match One Day International bilateral series against the Netherlands on August 1. Vesawkar then went on to miss the ACC Asia Cup Qualifiers in Malaysia where Nepal agonisingly finished fourth to miss out on the regional cricket’s showpiece.
Airee’s return meant axing of Sagar Pun who had returned to the senior side for the Asia Cup Qualifiers. Another hard hitting batsman Binod Bhandari also retained his spot despite not featuring in a single match in the Asia Cup Qualifiers. Along with Pun, spinner Shahab Alam, opening batsman Sunil Dhamala and seamer Dipesh Shrestha were omitted from the 18-member preliminary squad. The team is leaving for Malaysia on Monday.
Paras Khadka will lead the team that also includes Gyanendra Malla, Anil Kumar Sah, Basanta Regmi, Dipendra Singh Airee, Karan KC, Lalit Singh Bhandari, Lalit Rajbanshi, Aarif Sheikh, Sandeep Lamichhane and Sompal Kami.
The seven-team Qualifier is slated for October 3-12 in Malaysia from where the top three teams will meet United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Kuwait in the Asia Region finals, the second round of Qualifier in the continent. Only the top two teams from the Asia Region finals, of which the date and venue is yet to be finalised, will advance to the Global Qualifier. Six teams from the Global Twenty20 Qualifiers will make it to the 2020 ICC World Twenty20 to be held in Australia.