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Cricket World Cup: Nepal's wild fans heartbroken after rain washes out Florida match

LAUDERHILL -- The Nepal cricket fans came, sang, paid for parking at Broward Stadium, but didn’t see its national team compete in the first World Cup game ever staged in South Florida.

Did anyone tell the ICC (International Cricket Council) that hurricane season just began here?

With rain falling most of the day in Fort Lauderdale area, cricket organizers finally cancelled Nepal’s group-stage match against Sr. Lanka at 8:27 p.m. Tuesday – nearly one hour after the original starting time.

A few thousand fans were already in the stadium – almost all of Nepal heritage wearing the red, white and blue colors of a nation located between India and China.

The Nepal fans were singing, waving their flags and chanting “Nay-pal’’ for close to an hour. Then came the he announcement the match would be “abandoned due to impossible poor conditions."

It can’t be rescheduled because both teams must move on to other sites – Nepal to St. Vincent and Sr. Lanka to St. Lucia. The rainout was considered a draw with each team getting one point.

“We’ve been preparing for this day for months ahead and so many travelled,’’ said Bikash. Acharya, a Nepal native who lives in Port St. Lucie. ’’It’s disappointing. We had been hoping that would be (a reduced) 10 overs (instead of 20). We don’t know if Nepal will ever qualify again to this stage. It’s heartbreaking.’’

There appeared to be 95 percent Nepal fans in the stadium waiting for the matchup with a drizzle still afoot. “We love our country more than Sri Lanka,’’ said Raj, who was part of a group of 20 fans who drove from Austin, Texas.

World Cup Cricket: Team USA stuns Pakistan, next plays Ireland in Fort Lauderdale

Nepal cricket fans turn out to support their country before a match with Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup on June 11, 2024 at Broward Stadium in Lauderhill.
Nepal cricket fans turn out to support their country before a match with Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup on June 11, 2024 at Broward Stadium in Lauderhill.

Nepal is not considered an elite cricket program – called an “associate” - but is widely regarded as having one of the most ardent fan bases in all of cricket.

The good news is three games still remain at Fort Lauderdale’s cricket grounds – including the marquee match Friday between upstart USA vs. Ireland.

That winner could advance to the Final 8 stage. (The World Cup has four groups of five teams)

The Americans, who face powerhouse India Wednesday in New York, made global headlines by stunning Pakistan last week in its first-ever World Cup after beating Canada. USA only qualified because it is a co-host with the West Indies.

Nepal’s first-ever World Cup match last week was in Dallas where it was routed by the Netherlands.

The theory on the Sri Lanka no-shows was they were either scared off by the wetness or the losing.

Sri Lanka is an established cricket club – in “test’’ status - but had lost both its first two World Cup matches in stunners, including an embarrassing score of 77 against South Africa. The Sri Lanka bandwagon may have emptied.

Nepal cricket fans turn out to support their country before a match with Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup on June 11, 2024 at Broward Stadium in Lauderhill.
Nepal cricket fans turn out to support their country before a match with Sri Lanka in the Cricket World Cup on June 11, 2024 at Broward Stadium in Lauderhill.

“The fan base in Nepal is really great,’’ said Pratik Banjade of Wisconsin. “They’re crazy about cricket in Nepal and they’re wild. We’re very sad the rest of the games are in the West Indies. We are here just to see our team and so happy we are here. That makes us the Nepal fans different than any other team.’’

White tarps covered a part of the cricket grounds but much of grass went uncovered. Vehicles with squeegees couldn’t make the field playable though the rain had mostly stopped into a light drizzle.

“Fans were told to check the ICC website for refund policy but 40 dollars was already shelled out for parking. There were no boos – just a brief wave of disappointed silence before the fans slowly headed out to the exits.

For one night, even with no match, Nepal dominated Broward Stadium.

“I was expecting there would be a lot of Nepal fans but I expected a little more from them,’’ Archayra said. “The Napal fans travels all over the nation. It’s not just local people. It’s the first time we’ve been to this level of games.’’

Sudeep Bhattarai was part of a 11-person group who flew in from San Francisco. “We’re here to support the team,’’ Bhattarai said before it was called off.

Nepal coach Monty Desai said of the fans out in the rain:

“I was indebted. Just the way the fans have been following this young team all over the globe in cricket, it obviously keeps on bringing the sense of responsibility that we have to bring some more smiles for them. So, I'm very, very grateful to all of them.’’

With the draw, Lanka, at 0-2-1, was eliminated from moving to the next stage. Sr. Lanka previously had complained about New York’s new stadium had odd field conditions.

“We were here yesterday (Monday) and there's no rain,’’ said Sr. Lanka batsman Mahesh Theekshana said. “So we thought hopefully there'll be no rain today. But we didn't play well the first two games. I think that's why we had to earn the spot.’’

The coach of Nepal said they were told there were too many “wet spots’’ and made the field unsafe.

“Initially we were having a little bit of hopes,’’ the coach said. “But to clear all the rain, the super soakers and the manpower they have, one side of the ground had a lot more water, which was not easy to get it out. It was probably not going to be easy to play the game. Umpires look into making sure that it's safe. We respect that call.’’

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Cricket World Cup: Driving rains wash out Florida's first match