Nepal’s Lamichhane adds to BPL star power

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Sandeep Lamichhane is a household name in Nepal not just because he is their best-known cricketer worldwide but also for exploits in music that earned him a name as a vocalist.
In Kathmandu and other major cities of Nepal, streets are flooded with advertisement boards featuring his photos, giving an impression to every visitor in the popular tourist destination about his raising profile as a celebrity.
Lamichhane is currently in Dhaka sharing his trade as leg-spinner in Bangladesh Premier League for Sylhet Sixers being one of the two foreign recruits outside their players’ draft.
This has also completed a circle for Lamichhane, who began his proper cricketing career with the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2016.
It took Lamichhane very little time to grab the spotlight as he claimed 14 wickets in the tournament, including a hat-trick, which made many cricket scouts take a look at him.
Yet it came as a surprise when Lamichhane was picked by Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier league for last year, making him the first ever Nepali cricketer to play in the money-spinning league.
Lamichhane proved he deserved the call and the owners of franchises in other Twenty20 leagues followed the suit of Daredevils, taking him to Caribbean Premier League and Big Bash.
During an exclusive interview with New Age at a Dhaka hotel on Monday, Lamichhane said Sylhet Sixers contacted him at least 10 months ago, which made him abandon Melbourne Stars in Big Bash to join the league.
‘I started my cricket career from Bangladesh and I always feel pleasure to come to Bangladesh and play here,’ said Lamichhane.
‘I have got lot of good feelings being here and play here in Bangladesh. So it’s always lovely.
‘I made a commitment like 10 months ago and signed the contract for Sylhet Sixers. I spoke to Melbourne Stars that I have a contract with Sylhet team… I told them that I can’t play full season and they agreed,’ said Lamichhane, who picked 2-16 in his BPL debut against Comilla Victorians on Sunday.
‘Our team is very fantastic as I said before. The coaches and the management staff especially our CEO Yasir Obaid is very caring about the players,’ he said.
Although Nepal had little to offer to Lamichhane to harbor his cricketing ambition as they don’t even have a decent cricket stadium let alone proper cricketing infrastructure, his journey in the game is nothing less than a fairytale.
‘I was really a small kid when I started cricket,’ said Lamichhane. ‘May be I was 8-9 years old and I used to play with my friends and brothers in small streets with plastic balls or tennis balls.
‘I used to play for fun and enjoyment when I was growing as a child. Later I realised I am playing really well so why can’t I make it as a professional,’ he said.
Since Lamichhane started playing competitive games at senior level he became an instant success, helping Nepal with their ODI status last year and grabbed their first win only in their second international game.
He helped Nepal win their maiden ODI against Netherlands by only one run in a two-match series in August when Lamichhane claimed 3-41.
The 18-year old leg-spinner who amazed the cricket world with his mysterious leg-spin in last few years, also received the honour of representing an ICC XI in a charity Twenty20 match against West Indies at Lord’s last year.
Lamichhane hoped Nepal cricket will grow gradually despite the absence of proper infrastructure and professional management.
‘There is a saying that small steps always lead you to big achievements,’ he said. ‘One day hopefully we also will be in the big stage although we don’t have any good cricket board and any other thing that can help Nepal cricket.’
Lamichhane said that getting ODI status after ICC World Cup qualifiers in Zimbabwe was a stepping stone for his country.
‘I think it’s good opportunity we are getting ODI games and Twenty20s and there will be a lot of in upcoming months,’ he said.
‘This will be a good exposure for all to take Nepal cricket to next level so that we can see Nepal competing against Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, Australia and England in coming days,’ he said.
Lamichhane said Nepal, who played in a major tournament only once in ICC World Twenty20 in 2014 in Bangladesh, have also set their eyes on Twenty20 World Cup in Australia 2020.
‘We just finished our world T20 Asian B qualifiers and got the first spot there. Now there will be Asian qualifiers in Dubai in May. There are two more steps and if we clear all these steps we will be in Australia in 2020,’ he said.

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