Sports

Cricket's new poster boy runs into fans trouble

- Adarsha Dhakal, POKHARA

Nov 4, 2018-

Teen leg-spin sensation Sandeep Lamichhane, Nepali cricket’s new poster boy who has shot into international fame, learned an important new lesson this weekend: being famous comes with a baggage. Lamichhane, who has been leading the Biratnagar Titans during the Pokhara Premier League T20 tournament, faced a series of chants from spectators, one of which repeatedly called him “arrogant Sandeep,” as he played against Chitwan Rhinos on Saturday.

In a short span of time, Lamichhane has achieved the kind of success no other Nepali cricketer has managed to do. The teenaged spinner, who has been compared to Australian spin wizard Shane Warne during the 2016 ICC U-19 World Cup, has now amassed millions of rupees ever since his career as a professional cricketer shot up following an Indian Premier League (IPL) stint with Delhi Daredevils in May this year.

Since then, Lamichhane has signed up with multiple franchises across the world to become the only globetrotting cricketer born in Nepal. His fairytale journey has not only helped him scale newer heights but also put Nepal in cricket’s global map. Putting aside his global franchise league exploits, Lamichhane has also been playing a crucial role for the national team. His performance was the cornerstone in national team's recent progress as a One-Day International nation. An unknown kid to the nation until three years ago, Lamichhane is the country's biggest brand ambassador for sports. So, why would a teenager sports icon suddenly become taunted with criticisms?

Lamichhane was 17 when he made his IPL debut with Daredevils, where he signalled his arrival to the world by picking up five wickets, making most of the opportunity he got in the last three games. But his newfound stardom spoke volumes after he rejected interviews to multiple media--few of them mainstreams--soon after he returned from the tournament.

That relationship with the media further soured after he removed many journalists from his social media accounts. His manager, Raman Shiwakoti, also the national team technical analyst, said it was Lamichhane's personal decision, but admitted that several elements contributed to the change of attitude.

"He is young and has achieved a lot of things. There is a certain amount of change in his attitude but he will learn to handle his stardom with time,” Shiwakoti told the Post. “It is tough for a young boy to understand all the practical things and at the same time offload himself from the burden to give consistent performance.”

Lamichhane was handed down one demerit point after he argued with umpires, showing resentment over a decision when Titans played against Rhinos. A section of crowd from the parapet responded to his resentment by chanting against him. It was not the first time Lamichhane was greeted with such chants. The crowd also showed similar disapproval against him when Titans played Butwal Blasters on October 31.

For his part, Lamichhane said the recent development was something that he never expected. "I have always tried to be down to earth. During the games, I have certain level of aggression which I love to show. But the response (from the crowd) is something I had never expected. I had a humble begining to my carreer and know my roots very well. I hope people understand my on-field aggression which is ignited by the level of competition that we are playing in," he said.

Some witnesses said the crowd also took a dig at him because he rejected to pose for a photograph with them. But Shiwakoti said Lamichhane is not to blame for that rejection. “There are certain people who don't know how to behave with a star player,” he said. “It doesn't feel good when you are pushed and forced to take photos.”

Binod Das, the former national team skipper turned coach, under whom Lamichhane led the Nepali team at U-19 levels, said the issue with his former trainee has been blown out of proportion. “If people are calling him arrogant, then he has to take it,” said Das, who added that Lamichhane also has a lot to learn. “He is now in a big league and it will be tough for him to be with everyone the same way he used to be,” Das said. “He has a long way to go in his cricket career and distractions like these might affect his performance. So, he has to learn the right way to portray himself.”

Published: 04-11-2018 20:30

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