… the team lands in Assam today for friendly matches  

Thinley Namgay   

The men’s national cricket team of Bhutan will land in Assam, India today for a friendly game against Assamese teams in preparation for the upcoming ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 in Thailand.

The national team will play three games at Mangaldai Sports Association Ground and will return on February 15.

Bhutan’s last international appearance was in June last year at the first Quadrangular Series 2022 in Malaysia.

The national team was selected during the 2023 men’s national cricket championship in Gelephu last month. They have been practicing there since January 22.

Eight countries will compete in the ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 from February 24.  Bhutan, Bahrain, the Maldives, and Iran are in group A. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Myanmar are in group B.

Bhutan will play the opening game against Bahrain. The final match is scheduled on March 5.

Of the eight teams, the top two will be selected and join the UAE, Nepal, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia in the second round of Asia Cup Qualifiers__ACC Men’s Premier Cup to be held in April.

The winner of the ACC Men’s Premier Cup will secure a spot in the Asia Cup, while the top three teams will get a chance to participate in the Emerging Cup in Sri Lanka.

Bhutan Cricket’s Chief Executive Officer, Damber S Gurung, said the upcoming 50 overs tournament is the first qualifier round for Asia Cup and it is important.

Damber said the tournament will be challenging as the national team is playing a 50-over international format tournament after five years.

“The most challenging aspect is that our team has struggled with batting in the past. However, our strength lies in our bowling and fielding,” he said. “We need to focus on improving our batting performance and be well-prepared for the tournament.”

He said that the last 50-over international match was in 2017 and Bhutan’s performance was commendable despite challenges such as a lack of facilities, foreign coaching, and limited match experience.

Damber said that in 2017, many players were young and inexperienced but played well. “Now, with their potential and growth, they can surprise many teams.”

He said the players were now matured and improved.  “We are confident. All the players need is to play well, maintain a positive mindset, and adopt a winning mentality.”

National player Ranjung Mikyo Dorji said that two of the 14 players in the squad are new. “I am confident that we have almost the same squad that went to a competition in Malaysia last year.”

He said that the team also has four reserve players.

“We had intensive practice for the last few weeks. The 50-over tournament will be new for many of us and we are trying to play as many games before the tournament,” Mikyo said, adding that the recent national championship helped players get familiar with the coming tournament.

He said that the team will travel to Thailand four days ahead of the tournament to play friendly games.