UAE v Nepal: Globetrotting T20 superstar Sandeep Lamichhane returns to Dubai
Since troubling the UAE batsmen with his leg-spin this time last year, the teenager has gone on to become a global tourist, one of the hottest properties on the T20 grand tour
This time last year, Sandeep Lamichhane was more or less a complete unknown to all but a few.
Nepal cricket supporters might have had a decent idea. Beyond that, you would have to be a real cricket anorak to remember him as the skinny young kid who had taken a hat-trick and featured among the leading wicket-takers at the 2016 Under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh.
How times change. Now the 18-year-old leg-spinner is a global tourist, one of the hottest properties on the T20 grand tour, and an inspiration - not just for his compatriots in Nepal, but for everyone born outside cricket’s Full Member elite.
Twelve months on, Lamichhane is back where he was when he first learnt Delhi Daredevils had taken a chance on him by selecting him as one of their overseas players for the 2018 Indian Premier League.
He had been at the ICC Academy in Dubai with a Nepal side that were preparing for the World Cricket League Division 2 when the news filtered through.
“It has been one year – I still remember the date, January 28 - when I was selected,” said Lamichhane, speaking ahead of Nepal’s limited-overs series against UAE.
“The manager came and told me when we were here I had been picked by Delhi Daredevils, and it was a very exciting moment for me.
“It has been a busy life since then. I am very happy with all those things that have happened. All of a sudden, it changed everything.
“I think it is good news for Nepal cricket. Nepal, too, is getting exposure from me playing in all these different leagues.
“And the new generations, as well as the players who are still playing for Nepal, will believe there is something there for them, and that they can play as well.”
Emirates Cricket Board plan to live stream a series for the first time when their national team play Nepal, starting on Friday. They can expect heavy traffic from the Himalayan nation, but not exclusively there.
Having played – and thrived – in Australia, Bangladesh, India, the West Indies, and even here in the UAE in both the Afghanistan Premier League and the T10 League, Lamichhane is an international star.
Ahead of this series, he met his national teammates direct from playing in the Bangladesh Premier League. Given how much cricket he has played since last January, it is remarkable he remains so fresh-faced.
“That is what I am doing the hard work for,” he said of what might seem an exhausting workload.
“I don’t want to neglect anything. I will play with a smile on my face, and face everything.
“I will always keep a positive attitude. A lot of things can change, there are always different scenarios, but if you keep a positive attitude, I think there will be a lot of good moments that happen in your life.”
Having lost to Nepal twice last year, the home team are well aware it would be unwise to focus solely on the threat posed by Lamichhane.
“What [Lamichhane’s rise] shows is that, if you get the chance to go and play against players that are slightly better than you, the improvements that can take place can happen really quickly,” Dougie Brown, the UAE coach, said.
“With regards to a specific plan to combat him, no. But we have been working our socks off, especially on strike-rotation against spin, off-spin, leg-spin and left-arm spin.
“We are well advanced, and far better players of spin than we used to be. Whether the players are capable of pulling that off in an environment that is pressurised, where there are consequences to not getting it right, we will wait and see.
“Time will tell, but we have got one or two ideas as to what we are trying to do against him.”
If the 2012 ACC Trophy final – when UAE and Nepal shared the title after a tie in front of thousands of Nepal supporters in Sharjah – is anything to go by, the home team are unlikely to feel anything like that during this series.
Pictures: UAE and Nepal cricket encounters over the years
“When we start on Friday, there might be a few thousand Nepalese coming to support their team,” Brown said.
“It might be quite loud and boisterous, and a carnival atmosphere. As a player, you look forward to these big occasions.
“Take away the fact it is two Associates playing, the atmosphere will add up to something that will motivate and influence players positively.”
Updated: January 25, 2019 10:20 AM