x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Stage set for Nepal captain Paras Khadka

Paras Khadka is ready for cricket’s big time with Nepal at the ICC Twenty20 qualifier, writes Paul Radley.

Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain, is the player to watch out for at the World Twenty20 Qualifier for the next few days. Pawan Singh / The National
Paras Khadka, the Nepal captain, is the player to watch out for at the World Twenty20 Qualifier for the next few days. Pawan Singh / The National

Given the diverse mix of nations at this month’s World Twenty20 qualifier in the UAE, maybe it should be no surprise to see people wearing “I love Paris” T-shirts at the ground.

France are not in it, though. Uganda, Papua New Guinea, Italy and Bermuda are. But, no, there are no Frenchmen here.

And yet the plain white tees with the simple inscription on the front have still been spotted. There is a reason for it. Misspelt it may be, but it is in homage to Paras Khadka, the captain of Nepal’s national team.

He is one of the emerging superstars who exist beyond cricket’s mainstream and who are vying for the sort of recognition the world stage brings.

The World Twenty20 in Bangladesh would be an appropriate platform for his talent, according to Nepal’s coach, Pubudu Dassanayake, the former Sri Lanka player.

“One of the discussions we have had within the group is that guys like Paras and Shakti Gauchan are top-quality cricketers but they have not had the opportunity for recognition in the cricketing world,” Dassanayake said.

“This is the stage on which they can do it. Paras is one guy who is really hungry for this opportunity.

“He is really looking forward to getting his name out there into the high levels of the game.”

If, as the cliche goes, India is cricket crazy, then Nepal are happily cohabitants at that asylum. Nepalese cricket is enjoying an inexorable ascent at present.

India’s part in it has been notable, too, by way of the constant stream of cricket coverage on the country’s TV channels, which are available to their Himalayan neighbours.

Tens of thousands of spectators attend home matches for Nepal’s national team in Kathmandu.

All the more so since they have a team in which they can believe: Nepal think one of the six qualification berths on offer at this tournament is well within their compass.

“People could regard it as pressure but we take it as an opportunity,” Khadka said.

“In one lifetime I don’t think you will get a better opportunity than this.

“We have been doing well as a team and if we can do the small things right, T20 cricket can go any way.

“It is all about us focusing on what we need to do, and the rest will take care of itself.”

Khadka, whose side start their qualification campaign against Denmark in Dubai on Friday, has already signalled his credentials before the tournament has even started.

Continuing the form he showed on Nepal’s preceding 10-day tour to Delhi, he carried his side to an easy win over the UAE in Tuesday’s warm-up match with an unbeaten half-century. Even the opposition coach was impressed.

“He is a talented player,” said Aaqib Javed, the UAE coach. “Once he is out there he doesn’t look to anyone else, he takes the responsibility on himself and shows the captain’s role in the team.”

Gauchan, a spin bowler for Nepal, was invited to train with the Indian Premier League side Rajasthan Royals this year.

It seems only a matter of time before Khadka’s merits are recognised in similarly gilded quarters, but the man himself has other things on his mind, at present.

“We want to make it to a World Cup – as simple as that,” Khadka said.

“We really don’t care who goes where and what individual players do. Players need to perform. If they do well, they will get recognition.

“As a team, we just want to play at a World Cup. That is our main aim.”