A tale of passion and determination: Abinash Bohara; Nepal’s death over specialist

Nepal cricket has so many stories to offer to world cricket. One is the story of a 23-year-old Nepalese medium-pacer, who is now widely appreciated for his toe-crushing yorkers and his nail-biting death over finishes. Also acknowledged as the new ‘death over specialist’ for Nepalese sides, the journey of Bohara commenced in the Nepalgunj district of Nepal. 

In his initial days, he never imagined that he would one day represent the country with a blue and crimson-red jersey on his chest. His initial aim was to join the Indian army. On average, approximately two thousand Nepalese ‘Gurkhas’ are recruited every year in the Indian Army. As the only son in his family, he wanted to make his family proud, just like every other child in the country.

In 2014, when Nepal played its first major ICC event, the World T20 in Bangladesh, an immense feeling of pride inspired this young boy. Earlier, cricket for him was just a sport like any others and used to play with tennis balls. After failing to succeed in the Indian Army trials, he commenced his cricket journey representing the Nepalgunj [then region no. 5] U19 cricket team. He scalped seven wickets (three vs Baitadi and 4-15 vs Birgunj) in two matches for Nepalgunj in the 2014 National U19 Cricket Tournament and that, he believes, gave him more confidence in choosing cricket as a career option. 

After having represented the Nepalgunj U19 team and performing well in the national tournament in Kathmandu, he received his maiden call for the 35-member national U19 camp in 2014, just prior to the ‘ACC U19 Premier Trophy: A Step Away from the U19 World Cup’. Unfortunately, Bohara wasn’t selected for a final spot in the national U19 team, which later under the captaincy of Raju Rijal, played against Afghanistan, UAE, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in the tournament. Afghanistan, with the likes of Rashid Khan and Hazratullah Zazai, won the tournament while Nepal returned home as the runners-up, also missing the chance to qualify for the U19 World Cup 2014. The Afghans qualified for the U19 World Cup.

Image Courtesy: Bishwash Thapa

Fast-forwarding to ICC U19 World Cup Qualifier 2015, the Nepal U19 team went unbeaten in the entire tournament beating the likes of Ireland and the USA, securing a spot in the U19 World Cup 2016. Aarif Sheikh (current national team member) bagged the player of the series trophy in the qualifier. Later, when the 22-strong men’s U19 national camp was named for the preparation of the ICC U19 World Cup, Abinash Bohara and Sandeep Lamichhane were two among five others called up, who previously did not participate in the qualifiers. Following the closed camp, Lamichhane made it to the U19 team but Bohara, once again, did not make the final cut. The Nepal U19 team later went on to record a historic performance, beating the likes of Ireland and New Zealand and eventually reaching the Quarter Finals. It was the tournament where Sandeep Lamichhane gained the major spotlight, collecting a hattrick against Ireland amongst an impressive tournament performance, with many heralding him as the ‘next Shane Warne’ in world cricket.

‘I had been called up in the U19 national camps for about four or five times but could never crack it to the U19 national cricket team’, Bohara said. His destiny had a different story written up for him. This rejection also forged a sheer determination in him, committing to work even harder, the test of his patience and grit accompanied him in every following step. ‘I also realised that if I had to make it to the national squad, I needed to multiply my efforts, And so I did proliferate my preparatory rituals’, he said.

Image Courtesy: Bishwash Thapa

Later in 2016, during the inaugural edition of the Everest Premier League, he managed to bag four wickets of big domestic names viz. Sharad Veshawkar, Prithu Baskota, Aarif Sheikh, and Dipendra Singh Airee with an economy of just seven in a match. Although the tournament went on to become an average for him with six wickets in five matches, those big wickets and efficient death-overs boosted his confidence. Next year in 2017, he took four wickets against Kathmandu Goldens giving away just 11 runs off the 3.4 overs representing Team CYC Attariya in the inaugural edition of the much-awaited Dhangadi Premier League. He also made an important runout in the prowess bagging his first Player of the Match Award. Like the previous one, this tournament also went on to become an average, bagging six wickets from the five matches he played. 

Down the line, he still had to face another disappointment in his domestic career. The test of his patience was not going to end this early. He got benched entirely in the second edition of the Everest Premier League. There might have been a few opportunities but the selectors were not in a mood to test his bowling abilities. As the meaning of his name ‘one that cannot be destroyed’, this rejection made him even more strong and determined. 

‘I was very disappointed that even after my hard work and dedication, things did not seem like turning out in my favour. I am very fortunate enough that my family is very supportive. I come from a middle-class family and they (parents) knew that things were not going well with me but I am so grateful that they never failed to support and motivate me. If any other struggling cricketer had to go through that phase of mine, most of their parents would have already forced them to quit. And I do have seen some’, Bohara told Emerging Cricket

Image Courtesy: Bishwash Thapa

He surmised that it was never going to be easy for him to make a spot on the national team as he never made it to the Nepal U19s. Nevertheless, he did not stop there and moved on with what Karma wanted him to do. ‘I was very fortunate enough that Paras dai, Sharad dai, Basanta dai, and other senior players who were training for the senior sides called me to bowl them in the nets. I probably bowled them for about two years, and in those years, I learned a lot. And special guidance from Karan dai and Sompal dai helped me grow immensely’, Bohara recalls with admiration. 

After having decent performances in the following season of the domestic franchise leagues and also having finished the Khukuri Cup 2018 earlier as the Bowler of the Tournament, a beacon of hope lit up on the horizon for Bohara, as he got a call for the 20-strong men’s preliminary squad before visiting the UAE for a bilateral series in 2019. With regular seam bowler Sompal Kami injured during the EPL, Bohara got a call to cover for Kami. Likewise, Bikram Sob had also made it to the camp after bagging the most wickets for Pokhara Rhinos side in the EPL, while training under Australia coach Nathan Dodd. The camp would later be culled to 15 for the men’s squad for the ODI and T20I series in the UAE.

‘I had done well, however, I was not very satisfied with my effort in the closed camp. I could have done even better. I had almost given up on hope for my selection in the national team. I had already booked an air ticket to return back to [Nepalgunj]. The night before I took off the flight to Nepalgunj, a close friend of mine called and congratulated me. He did not tell the reason. I was completely puzzled. Later, when I asked for it, the happiness I got from his answers had no boundaries. I had been selected in the 15 [for the] Men’s squad for the bilateral series in UAE. Finally the day I had been waiting for the last five years arrived’, Abinash said, still cherishing the moment.

‘The UAE tour happened to be my dream series. Although I did not have a chance to debut in an ODI, I managed to perform well and also bagged the man of the series in my debut international tour’, he said. He picked up six wickets in three matches in the T20I series. Following his debut tournament, he has been a regular member of the current national team and has picked up 20 international wickets in his 20 T20Is. His death over spells has earned him the new title ‘death over specialist’ of the Nepalese T20I squad. He earned his ODI debut against Oman earlier in February, in the Cricket World Cup League Two (CWCL2), and has two ODI caps now. 

Bohora in action in the TU International Ground, during the CWCL2. Image Courtesy: Bishwash Thapa

Following CWCL2, the global pandemic hit the nation and cricketing activities halted for around eight months. During this period, he got rewarded with a central contract from the CAN for his performance for the national cricket team. When cricket resumed in the form of the Gautam Buddha Cup after Covid, Avinash Bohara bagged his Player of the Match award from his first match, against Team Bagmati. His exceptional bowling bagged him two wickets giving away just three runs in the 19th over, at a stage where the opponents needed 16 runs in 12 balls to win the match. In the final against Team Narayani, he collected three wickets, finishing with seven wickets in three matches of the tournament. He was awarded Player of the Final and Player of the Series.

Bohara holding his Man of the Final and Player of the Series trophy in Gautam Buddha Cup 2020. Image Courtesy: Bishwash Thapa

He is hopeful and very excited by the announcement of a new head coach Dav Whatmore. Like every other cricketer, he has a dream to play at the highest level of the game [World Cup] and win it for his country one day. When asked about a record he wished to break, he promptly said ‘Malinga’ [4 wickets in an over]. He is a great fan of the Ashes series and someday wants to watch it live in the stadium.

He is humble and a very down to earth character, and this has made him an even greater sportsperson.

He is very determined that one day he will make the nation (which he has already done) and the cricket fraternity very proud of his performance.

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