Sandeep Lamichhane has burst onto the scene from nowhere and hogged the limelight with his sheer talent. He is dubbed as the Shane Warne of Nepal. The kid has a bright future ahead of him.
There is no denying that cricket has entered an era where wrist-spin is rapidly becoming a dominant force. For any captain, it is an attacking option, which creates wicket-taking opportunities on a frequent basis and this is the biggest USP of modern-day wrist-spinners. Thanks to the success and subsequent limelight this type of bowlers are getting nowadays, the likes of Yuzvendra Chahal, Kuldeep Yadav, Rashid Khan have become household names.
Well, another bright young cricketer who is also climbing the ladder of success quite swiftly, is Sandeep Lamichhane, the 17-year old leg-spinner, who recently made headlines by becoming the first cricketer from Nepal to secure an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract.
However, those who have followed his career closely, know there is much to cheer about this kid than a mere franchise contract. Coming from the Syangja district in Nepal, some 200 km to the west of Kathmandu, the teenager has already raised a lot of eyebrows with his performance at the age-group as well as at the senior level.
Let’s look back a little bit and rewind his journey to find out what is so special about this soft-spoken boy.
In 2016, while covering the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, I first came across Lamichhane — a 15-year old wiry looking boy, bowling some accurate leg-spin at the nets of the Shere Bangla National Stadium at Mirpur. Sudeep Sharma, the manager of that Nepal Under-19 team spoke highly about this bright young kid, which attracted my attention towards him. And I liked what I saw.
At that age, he had a lot of control over his length and line. And remember, leg-spin is a difficult art to master. What impressed me the most, was his tendency of flighting the ball, even if the batsman is in an attacking mood. Also, he was quite deceptive while bowling his googly.
In the end, that Youth World Cup turned out to be a fruitful one for Lamichhane. With 14 wickets in six matches, including a hat-trick against Ireland, he was the second highest wicket-taker of the competition. It was a huge opportunity for the young leggie to showcase his talent on the world stage and Lamichhane grabbed it with both hands. For me, along with Rishabh Pant, Mehedi Hasan Miraz, Rashid Khan and Alzarri Joseph, this kid from Nepal, was one of the finds of that edition of the Under-19 World Cup.
Meanwhile, the limelight Lamichhane got in the youth world cup, earned him a contract from the Kowloon Cantons in the inaugural edition of the Hong Kong T20 Blitz. It was the breakthrough phase of his career as the tournament allowed the youngster to share the dressing room with Michael Clarke.
Due to rain, there was not much action on the field, but young Lamichhane impressed Clarke so highly, that the then Australian skipper tipped him to be the next Shane Warne.
Well, Clarke wasted no time and took the teenager to Sydney to play club cricket, spending his own money. Lamichhane was representing the prestigious Western Suburbs club and training with Clarke in his academy.
“Michael Clarke has had the biggest influence on me as a cricketer. From the time, he saw me bowling at the Hong Kong Sixes, he kept an eye on me. He is a kind man, a humble soul, who has helped me grow as a cricketer and a person,” Lamichhane recently said in an interview with the PTI.
The exposure in the Sydney grade league has given the young leggie a lot of confidence and of late it has reflected in his performance in national colours. And now the upcoming stint with the Delhi Daredevils in IPL is going to a huge learning curve for the youngster.
In his interview with the PTI, the teenager also spoke about how he looked up to Sachin Tendulkar and Warne as inspirations.
“As a child, the two people whom I looked up to were Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. For me, they are the two greatest cricketers. I would never miss an opportunity to watch whenever they played. I would watch their recordings.”
Interestingly, very soon in IPL Lamichhane will get an opportunity to perform in front of his childhood heroes.
Currently, Lamichhane is in Dubai, preparing for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers, which will be played next month in Zimbabwe. Expect a lot of eyeballs to follow him in this competition.