Mahendra Singh Dhoni (L) arrives at the Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu during his visit to Nepal. AFP photo
Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was named goodwill ambassador for Nepal cricket on Saturday.
Nepal’s tourism minister Posta Bahadur Bogati conferred the honour on Dhoni at a function held in Kathmandu hours after he landed here to promote cricket in this football-crazy Himalayan nation.
The 31-year-old who is on his maiden two day trip to Nepal along with wife Sakshi is the third Indian cricket captain to visit Nepal after Kapil Dev (1999) and Sunil Gavaskar (2004).
"I got an invitation from the Indian Embassy to come here and talk to cricketers and promote the game," he told media persons soon after landing at the Tribhuwan International Airport.
As per International Cricket Council, Nepal, an associate/affiliate member, stands 27th in ODI rankings. It is the fifth ranked associate member in Asia after Afghanistan, UAE, Hong Kong and Oman.
Football is more popular in Nepal and it is ranked 149 in the latest FIFA list – above Bangladesh (152), India (164), Pakistan (181) and Sri Lanka (184), all test playing nations from South Asia.
The Captain Cool spent time with Nepal’s U-19 cricket team which is preparing for the Asia Cup to be held in Malaysia later this month and gave them valuable tips on technique and temperament.
Dhoni also interacted with officials of Cricket Association of Nepal and members of Nepal’s national team to know about development of the sport in the country.
"Cricket is very popular in the sub continent but in Nepal it’s an upcoming sport here. I am hoping Nepal will grow as a cricketing nation and we will see them in major tournaments," he said.
Despite being aware of cricket in Nepal, Dhoni blamed Indian team’s hectic cricket calendar for his inability to follow the sport’s progress in the neighbouring nation.
"Dhoni is a very popular figure in Nepal as well and we thought it would be fit to invite him to promote cricketing ties," said Indian Embassy spokesperson Apoorva Srivastava.
Officials at CAN hope the visit will help draw international attention on the country’s cricket.
Dhoni will leave for India on Sunday after a visit to Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal’s most sacred shrine for Lord Shiva.