Rohit Paudel: “I really enjoy accepting challenges”

Rohit Paudel chats to Emerging Cricket on cricket, life and future of the game in Nepal.

Rohit Paudel has made a remarkable impact on Nepali cricket in just over five years of playing at international level, earning himself a place among the country’s successful batters and captains.

What’s particularly impressive is that he managed to achieve this feat even though he was out of the team 18 months ago. When he returned to the team, it was around the same time that Paras Khadka retired, almost as if Khadka had passed on the baton to Paudel. Since making his comeback in September 2021, Paudel has consistently scored runs for Nepal and has matured both as a batter and a leader.

Nepal’s fortunes took a drastic turn for the better in the space of just one month, following their disastrous tour of Namibia. This was largely thanks to the efforts of new coach Monty Desai and the leadership of Paudel. In their final match of the Cricket World Cup League 2, Nepal managed to secure a narrow 9-run win over the UAE via the DLS method, which allowed them to finish in the top three. This remarkable achievement, going from struggling to retain their ODI status to qualifying for consecutive World Cup Qualifiers, was something that seemed impossible just a few months ago.

During an interview, Rohit Paudel discusses his experiences of playing in Namibia and being part of an under-19 team that defeated India. He also talks about overcoming tough times, dealing with expectations and pressure, and his plans for the future in his cricketing journey so far.

Q: Tell us a bit about your cricketing journey from childhood to the national team.

Rohit Paudel: Cricket has always been my passion since I was a child. Watching Nepal play in the 2014 T20 World Cup inspired me to pursue my dream of playing for the national team. I shared this dream with my family, who supported me and sent me to Kathmandu for training and coaching. After practicing hard in Kathmandu, I participated in a talent hunt and was fortunate enough to be selected. There were many ups and downs in my journey, but I believe my hard work and commitment have brought me to where I am today. I will continue to work hard for the nation.

Source: CAN

Q: How supportive were your family and now?

RP: I feel fortunate to have a family that has been incredibly supportive throughout my cricketing journey. From the beginning of my career, they’ve been there for me, encouraging and supporting me during challenging times and celebrating my successes with me. Their continued support has played a significant role in my life.

Q: How much Rohit Paudel has changed as a batter? From EPL 2017 to helping Nepal Retain ODI status.

RP: From EPL 2017 to helping Nepal Retain ODI status, I believe I have undergone some transformations as a batter. I have worked hard on my skills and tried to develop a more consistent and mature approach to adapt to different match situations. Playing against top teams and in high-pressure games has helped me gain valuable experience and grow as a player. At the present, with the love and guidance I am receiving, I am motivated to continue working hard to improve my game and contribute to the success of my team.

Q: How do you describe those two knocks EPL 2017? 28 off 17 at the Qualifier and 31 off 11. Both against Lalitpur Patriots

RP: The two knocks I played in EPL were crucial for me. Being able to make valuable contributions and help my team win boosted my confidence and motivated me to work even harder on my game.

Looking back on those games now, I realize how important they were in shaping my career as a national player. Not only did the games provide me with a platform to showcase my skills and talent, but also played a very important role to make a debut in the senior national team.

Q: How do you deal with the pressure of playing for Nepal, a captaining country, and expectations from fans?

RP: When you are representing your country no matter what post you hold, there is a sense of responsibility and at times the games do come with a certain amount of pressure, but I try to use that pressure to motivate myself to perform to the best of my abilities, by focusing on my game and my team’s goals. I try to stay calm and focused during pressure situations. I understand that our fans want us to win every game, but I focus on the game situation and play. I try not to let those expectations from fans overwhelm me.

Q: How did you motivate yourself when you were out of the team? We heard you also had Covid-19. Was that true?

RP: The time when I was out of the team was very hard and I even caught Covid-19 that made it harder in the beginning. Things were getting out of control but I did not give up. I chose to stay positive and focus on the things that I could control. I motivated myself by staying active and working on my skills. I focused on improving my game and fitness and also took inspiration from other players who had faced similar setbacks and made a comeback. I sought guidance from Umesh Patwal sir. I believed in myself and my abilities, and I knew that with hard work and determination, I could earn my place back in the team.

Q: You were the part of Squad that beat India U-19 in the 2017 Acc-U-19 Asia Cup. But you didn’t have a great tournament. What’s your experience playing with that bunch of players?

RP: Being part of the squad that beat India U-19 in the 2017 ACC U-19 Asia Cup was a great achievement and a happy moment for the team. Even though I may not have had a great tournament personally, the team won and that made me very happy. Playing alongside some of the best young talents had been a great learning experience. Overall, being part of a winning team and playing with talented and motivated players was undoubtedly a great experience, and it helped me grow as a cricketer.

Q: You seem like a batter who adapts quickly. You were Nepal’s 2nd Highest Scorer in your first-ever overseas tour in Namibia during WCL Division 2. Do you enjoy those bouncy conditions or feel pressure playing your first tournament?

RP: I think I have a positive mindset as a cricketer and I really enjoy accepting challenges and performing beyond my comfort zone, especially in overseas conditions. Since I love taking challenges, I don’t feel much pressure when playing on bouncy pitches or turning tracks. During my first overseas tour in Namibia, I didn’t feel pressure playing in your first tournament. Instead, I saw it as a great opportunity to learn and grow as a cricketer. I totally enjoyed the experience and the game in Namibia.

Source: CAN

Q: What’s your best knock of career? That 47 against Kenya during WCL2 or 41 against PNG in your comeback ODI after 17 months or the recent 95* against Scotland.

RP: All three innings, the 47 against Kenya during WCL2, the 41 against PNG in my comeback ODI, and the unbeaten 95 against Scotland, hold great significance in their own way. The 47 runs I scored against Kenya were vital as a debutant, while the 41 against PNG was crucial for my comeback. However, if I were to choose the best knock, I would go with my recent unbeaten 95 against Scotland. It was an important match-winning innings against a strong team, and I was able to perform well when the team needed those crucial runs for victory.

Q: Your thoughts on Nepal’s last match? Were you nervous at any point? Is that the most nerve-racking match you have been involved in?

RP: Talking about our last match, despite receiving the highest target, we were ready to face the challenge. Our plan was to stay on the field till the end and win. However, after the fall of early wickets, silence fell over the ground. But, deep down, I believed that we could still do this. A good partnership started building in the middle, and with each run scored, our hopes began to rise.

With the chaos happening in the ground and the pressure of a must-win match, I think it’s ok to say that this was one of the most nerve-racking matches I have ever been a part of. But, it’s also one that I’ll never forget, and one that has taught me valuable lessons about team effort and a never-give-up attitude.

Q: How do you see yourself as a T20 player? You didn’t have a great start in the T20I format but since your comeback, you are consistent scores. However, fifty is still missing.

RP: I see myself as a versatile T20 player who can adapt to different situations and play different roles in the team. I didn’t have the best start in the T20 format, but I have been working hard on my game and striving to improve every day. For me, it’s all about staying patient, trusting the process, and being ready to seize every opportunity that comes my way.

Looking back at my T20 performances, I realize that I only have a single half-century in my name. This is not the standard that I aim to set for myself, therefore I am committed to trying, improving and becoming a more consistent performer.

Q: What do you think is the reason behind Nepal’s inability to chase a total of around 200 on a tricky pitch? It happened again during the UAE tour.

RP: Playing on home ground and overseas is certainly different. Some reasons for Nepal’s inability to chase totals around 200 on tricky pitches could be a lack of partnerships in the middle order and a need for a more aggressive and calculated approach while chasing. The team has learned from these experiences and everyone is working towards improving their performance in such situations.

Q: There are lots of all-rounders in the team. Is it difficult to manage their workload/overs?

RP: We have a strong group of all-rounders in the team who can contribute with both bat and ball, and it’s important to utilize their skills effectively. We try to balance their workload and overs based on the situation of the game and the opposition we are playing against. We also communicate regularly and openly with each other to ensure that everyone is comfortable and motivated to perform their best. Ultimately, it is a team effort, and we all need to work together to achieve our goals.

Q: Who has been your favourite batting partner in Nepal or in the army team?

RP: I have had the pleasure of playing with many talented and supportive teammates. It would be unfair to single out just one person as my favorite batting partner, as I have enjoyed the experience of partnering with all of them, and each partnership has been unique and special in its own way. That being said, I have had some memorable partnerships with Gyanendra Malla dai, Aarif Sheikh dai, Dipendra Singh Airee dai, Kushal Bhurtel dai in the national team. In the army team, I enjoy batting with Bhim Jonty.

Q: Which one do you love to play? Fast bowling or spin

RP: As a batsman, I enjoy playing both fast bowling and spin. Each type of bowling presents unique challenges and requires a different approach, so I try to adapt my game accordingly.

Against fast bowling, I enjoy the challenge of facing pace and trying to play attacking shots. Against spin, I enjoy using my footwork and trying to manipulate the field to score runs. So, I don’t have a specific preference between the two.

Q: Do you watch your previous innings and try to analyze what went right or wrong during the off-season or break?

RP: Yes, I definitely watch my previous innings and analyze what went right or wrong during the off-season or break. I watch my previous innings in detail and take notes on my performance. By studying my past innings, I can identify my strengths and weaknesses and work on areas that need improvement. I focus on aspects like my shot selection, footwork, and overall approach to the game. This helps me create a plan to improve my game and work on those areas during training.

Q: How much do you believe in match-up and stats in Cricket especially now as captain?

RP: As a captain, I believe that match-up and stats are important but they should not be the only factor considered when making decisions. Ultimately, the decision should be based on what is best for the team and what will give us the best chance of winning the match.

Source: CAN

Q: Does Nepal’s bowling in the powerplay and at the death overs concern you? How do you see fast bowling groups in Nepal?

RP: While Nepal’s bowling in the powerplay overs is not a major concern, there have been some challenges in the death overs where the team has given away more runs. However, it’s important to consider the playing conditions when assessing the team’s performance. In Nepal, where the grounds are relatively small, the bowlers may have to be more careful during the death overs. However, when playing overseas, the team is focused on minimizing the opposition’s scoring in the death overs. As a team, we are constantly working on improving our game and adapting to the conditions to perform at our best.

In terms of the fast bowling unit, we have a very talented group of bowlers who have been performing consistently specially Sompal (Kami) Dai, Karan (KC) Dai, Gulsan (Jha), Kamal (Singh Airee) Dai, Pratis (GC), and Kishor (Mahato). In my opinion, I believe that they make up the best inclusive bowling unit that we have had so far. They have been developing their variations to make them more effective in different conditions. As a team, we are confident and are looking forward to performing at our best in upcoming matches.

Q: Eight batters completed 1000 runs in recent CWC League 2. But No Nepali batters managed to find their name. What’s your take on this?

RP: I believe it is important to focus on the team’s overall performance rather than individual statistics. While it would have been great to see a Nepali batter complete 1000 runs in the recent CWC League 2, as a team, our focus was on playing good cricket and contributing to the success of the team. We have a number of talented batters on our team who are capable of scoring big runs and contributing to our success. And there are opportunities ahead where our boys will definitely mark their names.

Q: What’s next for Nepali Cricket, especially in the next 4 years? Your plan and prepare for the ACC Premier Cup.

RP: The team has been making steady progress in recent years, and we are and we will be working hard to continue this winning momentum over the next four years. Our main focus is on improving our performance in all aspects of the game, including batting, bowling, and fielding. In terms of upcoming tournaments, we are currently preparing for the ACC Premier Cup, which is a crucial tournament for us. Our goal is to perform to the best of our abilities and compete at the highest level.

Q: Is there any record that you want to achieve in near future?

RP: While setting personal records is always a nice achievement, my main priority is to contribute to the team’s success and help Nepali cricket grow and develop. My focus will be on contributing in any way I can towards the nation’s goals, and if personal records happen to come along the way, I will be extremely proud and happy.

Q: One message for fans who wants to become the next Rohit Paudel?

RP: For fans who aspire to become the next Rohit Paudel, my message is to work hard, stay focused, and never give up on your dreams. I would say that success in cricket, or any field for that matter, requires hard work, dedication, and perseverance. There may be setbacks along the way, but it is important to stay positive, learn from your mistakes, and keep striving for better. Always strive to push yourself to the next level, and remember to love and enjoy whatever you do.

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Nepal aims to win the upcoming ACC Men’s Premier Cup and qualify for their first-ever Asia Cup. With their current form and momentum, the hosts are highly optimistic about their chances of playing in the Asia Cup. The 10-team tournament starts from April 18 in Nepal with two grounds hosting the competition.

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