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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 23 March 2019

Sandeep Lamichhane: Nepal's globetrotting star adapts to PSL with a little help from Yasir Shah

Spin sensation has brought his talents to the Pakistan Super League with Lahore Qalandars

Ahead of Lahore Qalandars’ meeting with the league-leading Quetta Gladiators in the Pakistan Super League on Saturday, their two leg-spinners trained happily together on a cut strip on the side of the square.

They shared a cricket ball, traded high-fives, shared ideas. One loped up to the wicket, landed a perfectly-pitched googly that turned sharply, then bounded back to his partner and mimed with his hand exactly how it should be done.

And the other guy was Yasir Shah.

Sandeep Lamichhane has achieved so much over a remarkable past year-and-a bit that has taken him from school fields in the nether reaches of ICC competition with Nepal, to the T20 global tour's biggest shows.

The latest endorsement of his talent has come in the PSL. Having arrived late, after the conclusion of the Big Bash League in Australia, where he was the thriftiest bowler in the competition’s final, he has gone straight into the Lahore XI as their first-choice spinner.

Yasir, who has been so prolific in Test cricket for Pakistan that he has broken scores of records in recent years, would not have made the starting line-up for the game against Quetta were it not for the fact the worn wicket looked likely to take spin. Lamichhane, though, was already inked in.

The fact that, even though he is giving away 14 years in age to his illustrious teammate, as well as thousands of overs worth of international cricket, he felt confident enough to give Yasir advice is perhaps not quite such a surprise.

Yasir famously relies most on a big-spinning leg-break as his stock-ball, while his googly is less-feared. Lamichhane, meanwhile, has become hot-property on the T20 circuit because of his variety, and generally bowls a large proportion of googlies.

Plus, their demeanour suggested they might already be good pals. Theirs is quite the flourishing bromance. As well as spending much of the warm-up together, they were in cahoots for much of Lahore’s – ultimately doomed – defence of their total, too.

When Lamichhane was bowling, Yasir raced from his position at square leg to make a suggestion. Between overs, Yasir also had his arm around his younger colleague’s shoulder.

“He is supporting me,” said Lamichhane, who took 1-20 from his four overs in the final-ball loss against Quetta.

“Every time I bowl a googly, I have a plan of my own. It was working today because we were getting a bit of spin from the wicket. I was enjoying my bowling.”

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Lamichhane leaked one six, but no other boundaries otherwise, and was the most economical bowler in a game that also involved the likes of Sohail Tanvir, Fawad Ahmed, Rahat Ali, Haris Rauf and Yasir.

It was more evidence to believe the lavish billing by Aaqib Javed, the Qalandars coach, ahead of the tournament, stating that the Nepali teen “is a leading bowler in the world already, at this young age”.

He is well acquainted to the conditions in the UAE, too, having played a series against the national team in Dubai earlier this month, as well as in the T10 League and Afghanistan Premier League in Sharjah earlier in the season.

“It is not a comfortable job for bowlers because they are very small boundaries and flat wickets,” Lamichhane said. “Every ball you have to think [the batsmen] is going for six, and you have to bowl according to that.”

Lamichhane’s global tour – which has taken him from the Caribbean, to Australia, via Malaysia, Canada, Namibia and elsewhere in the past year – must have been an exhausting one.

But he says is grateful for the learning opportunities he has had, as well as the chance to promote Nepal cricket.

“For me, as a guy who is coming from Nepal and is representing himself and his nation, it is an opportunity for me,” Lamichhane said.

“Every league is similar: it is giving me an opportunity to prove myself and my ability, from where I am coming from. It is proud for me that I am representing my nation here.

“We are an emerging nation and we are getting there, slowly. We just played a T20 series against UAE and we showed our ability, the way we all played.

“I think it is an advantage me playing all the leagues, and taking all the experience from there.”

Updated: February 24, 2019 09:39 AM

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