Lamichhane, 17, was drafted last month by the Delhi Daredevils. And while he could be forgiven for being preoccupied, his immediate focus is to help Nepal overcome UAE in their World Cricket League Division 2 match in Namibia
Nepal spinner Sandeep Lamichhane says being drafted in the IPL 'was a dream come true'
Sandeep Lamichhane might be excused for feeling a little preoccupied by things other than the World Cricket League Division 2 in Namibia this week.
The 17-year-old leg-spinner does have something special to look forward to in the not too distant future, after all. Last month, he became the first Nepal cricketer to be recruited to the Indian Premier League, when Delhi Daredevils paid US$31,000 (nearly Dh114,000) at auction to secure his services.
It must be difficult just to set that aside and concentrate on the task at hand, that of trying to help his country through to the next phase of World Cup qualifying.
The reminders are constant. Like when the Daredevils send out tweets to their supporters, as they did on Saturday, asking which overseas pros they would select in their starting XI.
It puts into context quite what will face Lamichhane in India’s capital in April when he is competing for places with the likes of Colin Munro, Kagiso Rabada, Trent Boult, Glenn Maxwell and Chris Morris.
And yet, Lamichhane has been commendably focused on national duty so far. He took four wickets in the opening game against Namibia on Thursday.
It was a far cry from the 42,000 capacity Feroz Shah Kotla, his soon-to-be home ground. Affies Park, where Nepal played their first two matches in Windhoek, is actually a school sports field. Even though they were facing the host nation of the WCL Division 2, the attendance probably did not even quite extend to triple-figures.
Next up on Sunday, they face a crucial match with UAE, who have also won one and lost one so far. And even that will be a vague reminder of what else he has going on his life, seeing as he was in Dubai when he found out his IPL news.
“On the first day of the draft, we were in Nepal, travelling to UAE,” Lamichhane said.
“In the second day, we were practicing at the ground, and our team manager came to us. He was full of joy, he was running all over the ground, and he told us: ‘You have been selected. You have been picked by Delhi Daredevils.’
“Everyone came and congratulated me. It was a dream come true for us. I feel like the T20 leagues journey starts now.”
- Report: Sandeep Lamichhane stars as Nepal claim thrilling one-wicket win over Namibia
- UAE thrash Kenya to make emphatic start in bid to reach World Cup Qualifier
- World Cricket League Division 2: Fixtures and team-by-team guide
- Aim is clear for UAE – to qualify for the 2019 Cricket World Cup
Twelve months ago, one of the outlier selections for the IPL was a product of Dubai. Chirag Suri was picked from obscurity to join Gujarat Lions, although he did not subsequently play a match for them.
Despite having an extended run in the UAE starting XI after returning from the IPL, Suri has slipped from view of late, mainly because of the blockbusting form of newcomer Ashfaq Ahmed at the top of the order.
Lamichhane knows being recruited to the big show is just a starting point, and that the difficult part is still to come. He is confident, though, that he can impress.
“Every player wants to play in these leagues,” Lamichhane said. “I got that chance, and I am looking forward to it.
“I feel like: this is the moment, just live for it. You have worked for this moment, so why feel nervous? Just try to show your magical talent, show that to others.”
One thing for certain is his exploits will be keenly followed across the border in Nepal. Cricket has a frenzied following in the Himalayan country.
Lamichhane himself first became aware of cricket when he lived in the Indian state of Haryana for five years as a child, before his family returned to live in Chitwan – a district approximately 100kms from the capital Kathmandu – when he was 11.
His local association are proud of their player, and believe he has the skills to succeed. “Sandeep could turn the ball on the ice of Antartica,” Sudip Piya, a former Nepal spinner who is part of the executive committee of Chitwan District Cricket Association, said recently.
The likely leggies
Nepal’s IPL-bound spinner Sandeep Lamichhane was the second-highest wicket-taker in the 2016 Under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh. Trailing in his wake were three other leg-spinners who have all gone on to gain renown in international cricket in the intervening time.
- Rashid Khan (Afghanistan) Arguably the world’s leading white-ball bowler, the Afghan took 10 wickets in Bangladesh in 2016, to Lamichhane’s 14. Rashid starred at the IPL and Caribbean Premier League last year, and most recently at Australia’s Big Bash. He earned a big-money return to the IPL – one of four Afghans recruited last month.
- Shadab Khan (Pakistan) A year after that tournament in Bangladesh, where he also took 10 wickets, Shadab was causing a stir in the Pakistan Super League. Dean Jones, his franchise coach, said he was already ready for senior international cricket, and not long after he was debuting for Pakistan. He already has a Champions Trophy medal to his name.
- Mason Crane (England) Seven wickets at the Under 19 event in Dhaka, but at a better economy rate than Lamichhane or Shadab managed. Crane has been fast-tracked by England, making his Ashes debut age 20 in Sydney last month. It was perhaps one to forget, though, as he went for 193 in an innings as England were comprehensively beaten.
Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain who has himself been long-regarded by many as a good fit for the IPL, hopes his young teammate can be a trailblazer for his compatriots.
“We are glad he has made it to the IPL,” Khadka said. “He is very young, and has a very bright future.
“This is just the beginning. I feel he, along with some of the other guys, has the potential to go out there and play at the highest level.
“It is about getting that opportunity, and I hope, now he has this opportunity, he will go out there and prove himself.
“He is a young boy with a lot of talent. He just needs to keep working and hopefully things will happen for him.”
Lamichhane was already a hero at home, having first risen to prominence by being the second-highest wicket-taker at the 2016 Under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
After subsequently meeting Michael Clarke at the Hong Kong T20 Blitz, he travelled to Australia to train at the former Australia captain’s academy, as well as play at his club. His story is already inspiring others, according to Khadka.
“Back home, it has opened doors already for young kids to think, if you have that belief and work hard, and if you are talented enough, the world is open to you,” Khadka said.
“As a team, we are happy for him. I think it is just the beginning, and there are a lot of good days ahead.”