January 29, 2018 08:00 AM NPT
By: Rajan Shah
KATHMANDU, Jan 29: The cricket fraternity of Nepal and social media went into frenzy after the country’s teenage spin-bowling sensation Sandeep Lamichhane was purchased by Delhi Daredevils, the Indian Premier League (IPL) outfit, on Sunday in Bengaluru. The seventeen-year-old has become the first Nepali player to be a part of the money-spinning IPL.
He made it to the special list of eight foreign players that includes players from all corners of the world, such as Colin Munro, Glenn Maxwell, Jason Roy and Chris Morris. Lamichhane has been acquired at the base price of INR 2 million (NRs 3.2 million) for a season.
“We will have some new fans for IPL. It will be good for the kid. I hope this will start a cricket revolution in Nepal,” said Delhi Daredevils’ chief executive Hemant Dua after successfully acquiring the services of the Himalayan wonderkid.
“Brilliant to see mate, if I was a part of a team, I would pick him up quick smart. Wonderful talent and little champion,” tweeted Michael Clarke a week in advance of the IPL auctions.
It was in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz when Clarke first met Lamichhane while playing for same team, Kowloon Catalans, in May 2016. Clarke went on to invite Lamichhane for a stint at his cricket club Western Suburbs. In addition, the spinner also trained at Clarke’s cricket academy in Sydney.
“Sandeep is a fantastic young man who enjoys his cricket and is extremely passionate about the game,” Clarke was quoted in an official press statement of IPL.
The potentials of the leg-spinning wizard from Nepal was first noticed by British cricketer Scott McKechnie, who invited him after watching the spinner during his tour to Nepal in November 2015 with Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).
Lamichhane’s heroics in the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup in 2016 not just made the headlines but were among the most popular videos of YouTube. He picked up a hat-trick against Ireland and was spinning the ball viciously, outshining other leg-spinners which included the likes of Shadab Khan, the all-rounder who is a crucial member of Pakistan’s national squad.
Lamichhane was billed as the next ‘Shane Warne’, the most successful leg-spinner to ever play the game, by British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and other media outlets. Lamichhane was the second-highest wicket-taker at the World Cup.
He was soon promoted to captain of the young brigade in the subsequent U-19 tournament in Malaysia. He kept playing regularly for both the national team as well as the junior squad. He played nine World Cricket League Championship (WCLC) games and took 12 wickets, while making his debut against Namibia in home soil. He kept making impressive records and outshining his age-group rivals from the associate nations. Nepal missed the 2018 junior world cup after failing to overcome the much talented and fresh team of Afghanistan in the final of a regional qualifier.
Lamichhane’s rise to fame was all possible only because of the keen eyes of Nepal’s former coach Pubudu Dassanayake (now with the United States cricket team) spotting him at Raju Khadka’s cricket academy in Chitwan in 2015. The Sri Lanka-born Canadian Dassanayake handpicked the then 14-year-old wrist spinner to groom him for the national team. He was billed good enough to be a part of the U-19 team that was going to feature in the junior world cup. The rest is history.
Lamichhane, who grew up in India where his father worked, returned to his native Syangja in Nepal when he was fourteen. His dream finally came true. All he needed was to perform and pave his way to stardom.
“The only reason why I came to Nepal from India was to play cricket. I hadn’t played cricket at any level in India. I just played along with friends and practiced it as a hobby. However, the thing that I got in Nepal was far better than anything in India. My journey began with my passion for cricket, and moved forward with the zeal to play for Nepal and take Nepali cricket to a higher level,” the 17-year-old had said when he first arrived in Nepal.
National team skipper Paras Khadka was proud to see a fellow teammate making it big. “Congratulations to all the Nepali people, the cricket players, the crazy fans and everyone associated with Nepali cricket. It is a very proud moment to be a Nepali cricket player today. Well done @IamSandeep25” -he tweeted.
Lamichhane was proud of the achievement and expressed his gratitude to all those who supported his selection for IPL auctions. “I am very happy to be announced as a player of Delhi Daredevils for this season of IPL. Special thanks to all those people who kept me in their prayers holding their nerves! Journey begins now!” tweeted Sandeep Lamichhane in the aftermath of social media buzz after his signing with the Daredevils.
Despite not having a functional cricket board for two years at home and being deprived of cricketing opportunities thereof, Lamichhane has a chance to marvel at the world’s best T20 event.