A Bright Star

  • Sandeep Lamichhane takes his maiden wicket in the Indian Premier League

May 15, 2018-

On Saturday at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium in New Delhi, India, Sandeep Lamichhane took his maiden wicket in the Indian Premier League (IPL) on debut for Delhi Daredevils (DD) against Royal Challengers Banglore (RCB). The 17-year-old leg-spinner bowled against the two greatest T20 batsmen of our generation, Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers, and what an impressive performance that was.

Most Nepali cricket fans were upset that DD coach Ricky Ponting did not give Lamichhane chance earlier in the tournament when the team suffered successive defeats. When veteran leg-spinner Amit Mishra proved expensive in the games he played, why was Sandeep not given a chance? Nepali fans’ argument is tenable. Better late than never, the lad did get an opportunity.

Lamichhane’s successes and critical acclaim in world cricket partly redeems Cricket Association of Nepal’s (CAN) reputation, tarnished by myriad controversies recently. CAN, established in 1965, has made slow progress in cricket despite Nepal’s proximity to cricket giants like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the rapidly improving Bangladesh. Over the time, however, heavy government interference and internal wrangling within the CAN prompted the International Cricket Council (ICC) to suspend CAN in 2016. Yet, despite all odds, the journey of the Nepali cricket team has been nothing short of a miracle as the ban did not affect the team’s ability to perform.

In the World Cricket League Division Two held in February, Nepal finished second claiming a place in the 2018 Cricket World Cup Qualifier. Similarly, in March Nepal earned ODI status for the first time in its cricketing history. Amidst all this, when Sandeep Lamichhane was chosen to play in the IPL, it was just another feather in Nepali cricket’s cap.

Although the Nepali cricket team has given some stellar performances, the government has done little to support them. Sports now days are seen as a reflection in which nations, its residents, and its social classes see themselves. It makes people feel pride, humiliation, association and dissociation. Moreover, athletes many a times cross borders and represent their countries internationally too. Then, it becomes an imperative for the government to consider the sports-diplomacy nexus.

The Olympics is perhaps the oldest example of using sports as a means of diplomacy. The Winter Olympic that helped North and South Korea come together is a recent example. Similarly, the ping-pong diplomacy helped thaw the cold war tensions between China and the United States. Therefore, governments can no longer afford to overlook sports as a vehicle to either improving fraught bilateral relations, or taking the existing ones to new heights.

In this backdrop, Lamichhane becoming the first Nepali to figure in the IPL announces Nepal’s ambitions to world cricket. The newly elected government, headed by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli could help create an enabling administrative environment for CAN to provide talented cricketers resources and better facilities. The government could certainly propel Nepal’s nascent cricket aspirations to greater heights. Sports help build national identity. It is time the federal government pays heed.

Published: 15-05-2018 08:19

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