In 2001, when Roy Luke Dias arrived in Nepal as the national cricket coach, nobody knew what exactly the tiny Himalayan nation would achieve under him and for how long he would stay. He was the coach of Sri Lanka in the 1999 World Cup in England, and that fact alone made us proud to have him.
I always believed Dias chose to be Nepal´s coach due to an ego. He was fired immediately after the 1999 World Cup for Sri Lanka´s bad performance, and also because Dias, who is a strict disciplinarian, criticized star players for not playing well.
He was labeled an incapable coach, and the only way he could prove himself was by shocking them with his abilities.
In 1999, Nepal had reached the Super Eight of the Youth World Cup in Sri Lanka beating Kenya, and Dias saw the possibility. The rest is history; but my wish to see Nepal beat Sri Lanka remained unfulfilled. That didn´t happen (Dias surely wanted to take Nepal to the World Cup); but on Wednesday, Nepal nearly beat Sri Lanka in the Asian Games in China in the match that was his last as Nepal´s coach.
After the match, the entire Sri Lankan media in China turned to Dias; and just before he returns to his country to take up a job at the cricket board, he would still walk proud in the limelight. Not a perfect farewell by Nepali cricketers, but not a bad one either.
During his stint in Nepal, Dias not only brought the best out of young teams but also taught cricketers the importance of patience, hard work and discipline. He was not a beloved man to all cricketers for when players tried to go ´free´, he was too critical and didn´t like it. Once he told me: “I know if I let them play free, they will win some tough matches, but it´s more likely that they will also lose some easy ones.” And, I wholeheartedly agree.
Of late, however, there were criticisms against him. It wasn´t because he degraded as a coach but rather due to general frustrations with Nepali cricket. Despite high hopes pinned on Nepal, there was no World Cup qualification, no big matches with Test nations, and Nepal lost a lot of crunch matches, and lately, as other nations progressed, Nepal remained in the same spot for lack of proper program and planning.
I don´t think Dias will ever work the way he worked in Nepal. He was virtually given every powers that a coach requires. Media were all positive — there were no criticisms; and the cricket board respected almost all his decisions.
Dias as a coach avoided aggression, innovation and technological assistance — something of a fashion in international cricket those days. Going with that, many called him a ´traditional coach´. It´s true, but it´s also the best thing that budding cricketers required.
Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) decided not to renew his contract, and he was asked if he wanted to go with the team to the Asian Games. For his humbleness and love for Nepal, he agreed despite knowing that there was not much chance of winning any medal. And, his decision paid dividends.
It´s time for the beloved man of Nepali cricket to move ahead. With Nepal´s success credited to him, Dias can always be proud, and probably those who thought of him as an incompetent coach a decade ago have eaten crow.
I feel sad saying good-bye to you because of your contributions to our cricket. We will get another coach (hopefully more successful than you) but it´s highly unlikely that we will get a Nepal-loving man like you.
Good bye, Roy!
(As published in Republica national daily)