Globetrotting Lamichhane itching to cement his place in Delhi Capitals

- Adarsha Dhakal, Kathmandu

Mar 20, 2019-

Nepal's nomadic cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane's globetrotting journey comes full circle when the teen leg spinner begins his second stint in the Indian Premier League on March 24. The event gets under way on March 23.

Lamichhane had spent most of his debut season in the dugout of Delhi Capitals— previously known as Delhi Daredevils—featuring only in the last three matches. By the time he was drafted into the team’s playing XI, the franchise had already been out of the playoff contest.

The 18-year-old prodigy, however, took the opportunities with both his hands and was  quick to convince the team administrators that his place was inside the boundary ropes, not outside.

The Nepali bowler picked five wickets in three matches. But it was calmness and maturity he showed against the likes of world class batsmen, including India's Virat Kohli, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and South African AB de Villiers, that captured the imagination of the franchise, cricket fans and pundits.

Read: The Rise and Rise of Sandeep Lamichhane

Less than a year after making his IPL debut, Lamichhane has rubbed shoulders with world's top notch cricketers in six franchise Twenty20 leagues, beginning with the Global Challenge Twenty20 in Canada. He then plied his trade in the Caribbean Premier League, followed by appearances in the Afghanistan Premier League (played in the United Arab Emirates), Australian Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League and Pakistan Super League, earning himself name and fame.

From a rookie to becoming one of the most sought after cricketers across the world, Lamichhane will now be itching to secure a regular spot in the playing XI of a new-look Capitals who, under young Indian batsman Shreyas Iyer, are vying for their maiden title. Capitals open their campaign away to Mumbai Indians on March 24.

Lamichhane refused to talk about his chances, as being a leg spinner there will be a long race for him to win. More than his own performance, he is keen on seeing his team’s progress in the world’s richest T20 league.

"It doesn't matter whether I feature in the playing XI or not because at the end of the day its the result that counts. I don’t mind fulfilling the duty of a water carrier so long as Capitals win," said a modest Lamichhane on the eve of his departure to the Indian capital.

Lamichhane will be in a five-horse race for a place in the Capitals’ playing XI, with veteran Amit Mishra, allrounder Rahul Tewatia, Axar Patel and Indian First Class spinner Jalaj Saxena also vying for that coveted spot. The Capitals splashed out INR 50 million on Patel for this season, they secured the services of Saxena at a bargain price of INR 2 million. Mishra, Tewatia and Lamichhane have been retained from last season.  

At 36, Mishra may be in the twilight of his cricketing career, but he was one of the major  performers for Capitals last year. An expensive Patel, who provides all-round options, cannot be expected to spend time in the dugout and Tewatia featured almost regularly through Capitals' campaign last season. Saxena could be the last option in this race.

For Lamichhane, the biggest plus point would be his consistent performance in the last one year, barring the IPL. The Delhi franchise is coached by Australian World Cup winning captain Ricky Ponting who lauded Lamichhane from the commentary box whenever he played for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League. The Stars finished runners-up this season. He was an integral part of the Stars’ run-up to the final, taking 11 wickets in eight BBL matches in all.

With Ponting already keeping a close eye on Lamichhane, even a single slip-up from any other spinners can vault the Nepali teen as a first choice. But considering his last one-year exploits, Ponting is likely to consider Lamichhane as his prime pick.

Having played a year—bowling against accomplished stars across the world in multiple tournaments, Lamichhane believes a huge challenge lies in front of him. "A lot of batsmen have played against me during this period. I was at the top of my game in the beginning of Big Bash League but once the batsmen learnt to play against me, they started devising their plan. The same thing happened in the PSL," said Lamichhane.

"Its obvious that opponents will be continuously observing me and my bowling action. Now, the challenge for me will be to bring more variations and bowl with extra cunningness to make sure I am still difficult to play against," he added.

Published: 20-03-2019 07:14

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