Sandeep Lamichhane is yet to make an appearance in this year’s IPL, though it hasn’t stopped fans across Nepal hold their breath to see if their young leg-spinner is in the Delhi Capitals’ playing eleven.
While there is no action for us to discuss, it is perhaps a good time to remind ourselves just how the 20-year-old got his start, and the twists of fate that have led to him playing in the IPL.
Lamichhane was in Chitwan, a place around five hours drive from the nation’s capital, when the head coach of Nepal, Pubudu Dassanayke spotted his astonishing talent.
Dassanayake was on a drive to attend the wedding of Basanta Regmi, the legendary spinner for Nepal, when he had to stop halfway on his trip. Luckily, it was when he met Lamichhane at the nets at the Campa Chaur. No sooner, Dassanayke recognised his potential, and fast-tracked him to the national camp. Lamichhane represented the U19 team where he later went on to become the highest wicket-taker in the U19 World Cup in 2016, at an age of 15. He picked up 14 wickets in six matches that included a five-for and a hat-trick against Ireland. It was also the first hat-trick by any Nepalese cricketer in the U19 World Cup.
His quick success at youth level convinced everyone, including coach Dassanayke, to promote him to the national side. Lamichhane held his senior cap later in April 2016 where Nepal played against Namibia in the World Cricket League Championship in Kathmandu. He also picked up a wicket in his debut.
It was in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz where meeting Australian World Cup-winning captain Michael Clarke became a turning point for Lamichhane. Clarke, impressed with his bowling abilities, invited him to Australia, and mentored him during his days at the Western Suburbs Cricket Club in Sydney. Since then, there has been no turning back for the Associate poster boy.
Fortune favours the brave and Lamichhane has been brave to bowl with variations when it’s mattered most. Coming from a mountainous country with modest facilities in cricket, he has now traveled to almost all of the major franchise leagues in the world. In his short cricketing career, the globetrotter has not just been an ambassador to Nepal Cricket, but has indeed become an ambassador for the Associate countries all around, inspiring thousands of young cricketers to dream big.
It was a dream come true for every Nepali fan when Lamichhane signed for Delhi – the first time a Nepali cricketer represented the nation at the IPL, the biggest T20 Franchise tournament in the world. Going one step further than Shakti Gauchan who trialed for the Rajasthan Royals, Lamichhane strode further, and became the first Nepali to play in the competition. Ardent cricket fans in Nepal followed the IPL prior to his participation, but now, he has sparked the interest of those young and old, and even those who didn’t fancy cricket at all.
Sandeep’s chances to fit in the playing eleven is always the talk of the town during Delhi Capitals match days. Families in Nepal have their meals early in the hope that they can sit down and watch him play. Sometimes the fans are lucky, though so far have been disappointed to not see him in the playing eleven so far this season.
47-year-old Harisharan Khanal, a newspaper subeditor in Nepal, is one such convert.
“I started to watch Sandeep bowl even though I did not like watching cricket. I only watched Sandeep’s team’s game previously, but now, I have started enjoying cricket even though he is not involved in the game. It seems you’ve made me a cricket ‘addict’, Sandeep?” Khanal tweeted in Nepal.
Lamichhane has managed to pick up 13 wickets from the nine matches he has played in the IPL thus far. In his debut season, he featured in three matches for the then-Daredevils, taking five scalps at an economy of just 6.8 runs per over. Following his good debut season, he played six matches in last year’s IPL, picking up eight wickets.
His extraordinary form prior to this edition of IPL will be his key if Delhi is to utilise Lamichhane. Playing in the CPL, Lamichhane took 12 wickets in his 11 matches at an extraordinary economy of just 5.27. Having gained immense T20 exposure all around the world, this Associate poster boy is itching to unleash his potential, as he vies for a spot in the Delhi Capitals team again.
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