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Fanboying can wait until after game, Rohit Paudel says ahead of clash with Virat Kohli

When Nepal beat the weather and the UAE to win a place at the Asia Cup for the first time, back in May, their captain was asked about what was to come.

Three names were listed: Babar Azam, Virat Kohli, Rohit Paudel. What is it going to feel like for him to be mixing in such gilded company?

Paudel smiled coyly and spoke respectfully about what it meant to play alongside greats of the game.

Four months on, the Babar box has already been ticked. And, it turns out, the Pakistan captain is everything he is cracked up to be, and more.

His 151 in the opening game of the Asia Cup in Multan last week blew Nepal away on their long-awaited Asia Cup debut.

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HOVE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31: Mahika Gaur of England celebrates the wicket of Chamari Athapaththu of Sri Lanka during the 1st Vitality IT20 match between England and Sri Lanka at The 1st Central County Ground on August 31, 2023 in Hove, England. (Photo by Clive Rose / Getty Images)

Next up, that man Kohli, in Pallekele on Monday. Again, Paudel was full of praise for the biggest star of an Indian batting line up that is basically a galaxy of them.

He said Kohli is an inspiration for him and all his colleagues because of the discipline he shows on and off the field.

But, he says, his players cannot be in awe of any of the opposition players once the game starts.

“It will feel like that, but once you go the ground to start the game it becomes a game that everybody wants to win,” Paudel said.

“It might be a fanboy moment when the game finishes if we get an opportunity to talk to the senior players from India. We can learn from them.”

Memories of that ACC Premier Cup final win over the UAE might stand Nepal in good stead when they face India.

That game, in front of a frenetic crowd in Kathmandu, was heavily rain-affected. Thousands watched the rain fall from under umbrellas on the grass banks at Tribhuvan University, in a game that needed a reserve day to settle it.

There are also uncovered grass banks square of the wicket at the scenic Pallekele ground, which is a 30-minute drive from Kandy, the capital of Sri Lanka’s hill country.

While Sri Lanka’s main city, Colombo, was struck by a deluge of rain on Sunday, showers were fewer and less severe in the central hilly area.

India and Pakistan were unable to play to a result because of the weather on Saturday, and the players might again be tasked with dodging showers in the final pool game.

Paudel pointed out that neither side can plan for what the weather will do, but said his players are just revelling in another chance to mix it with the stars of Asian cricket.

“It is a big opportunity for all of us to represent our country on the biggest stage,” he said. “Everyone is very excited.

“It is a great chance for us, playing against India, to showcase what we have got. Everyone knows that for the past two or three decades our seniors have tried a lot, and we have got this opportunity now to play on the biggest stage.

“We as a team want to represent every one of the senior players.”

It is unclear whether the viewership of the game back at home will eclipse that for the Pakistan game, when even the Nepal president was pictured rapt by the TV broadcast.

“After the game against Pakistan, we saw videos showing that lots of people from different parts of the country were watching together,” Paudel said.

“It makes us happy that our country is making an interest of cricket. As a leader, as players, we all want to improve. It is an opportunity for us to play good cricket tomorrow and make our people happy.

“Our players have been working really hard for the past two or three years, and it is because of their hard work that we are here. We deserve to be here.”

Updated: September 04, 2023, 5:30 AM

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