Kathmandu: Cricket is followed passionately in India, but the love for the game extends beyond the boundaries and reaches Nepal, where the sport has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.
Despite having Kathmandu's breathtaking architecture, which is a sight to behold and blends in quite well with the hustle and bustle of modern life, Nepal wants to be known now more than a mere tourism destination. A new passion has taken root, it's called cricket.
At Tudikhel, at least 150 kids were found playing, and for them cricket isn't just fun, but serious business. The young cricketers were busy capturing the pitch they intend to play on even before the sun is fully out.
"We love cricket. We came here at 3 in the morning, so that we could play on this pitch," said a group of boys.
To no one's surprise, Indian captain MS Dhoni was treated almost at par with royalty when he arrived in the kingdom. Dhoni spent a day with the national team as Nepal Cricket's goodwill ambassador.
"This is my first trip and I don't know much about the venues over here, and it's good to see youngsters playing cricket despite it's quite hot," said Dhoni.
Nepal is taking baby steps in the game. They are currently an associate member of the ICC. The under-19 team have qualified for the World Cup in Australia later this year. But for steady progress on the international circuit, the players believe match exposure against better teams is a must.
"We have self belief but not match exposure," said U-19 team captain Prithu Banskota.
Private investors are also starting to cast a curious eye towards Nepal. The sport's popularity and the appeal of the IPL have made them believe this could be a destination for the future. The Tribhuvan University Ground in Kathmandu has the makings of an international quality venue already.
The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) is also counting on support from their influential neighbour to help achieve their ambitions.
"BCCI is a very big player and being our neighbour we expect support from BCCI," said CAN General Secretary Ashok Pyakurel.
It's quite obvious that cricket in Nepal is on a strong footing, and with the right support, the tiny Himalyan kingdom can make a splash on the international circuit in times to come.