Sandeep Lamichhane, the wily Nepal leg-spinner, said playing in the Indian Premier League had "changed his life", and expressed gratitude to Nepal cricket for getting him to this point.
Still only 18, Lamichhane is already one of the most recognisable faces in the cricket circles in Nepal. Apart from significant success in national colours, Lamichhane has also made an impact in T20 leagues around the globe.
His growing international stature is evident by the fact that he's a regular in the Delhi Capitals line-up this season, having played just three games last year. He is also repaying the faith with match-winning performances – he took 3/40 against Kings XI Punjab on Saturday, 20 April, to help fortify Delhi's spot at No.3 in the table.
Lamichhane always had good control over the ball, particularly for a leg-spinner, but it's his mental toughness that helps him stand out. It was a trait evident on Saturday. Despite getting hit for runs, he was unafraid to bowl attacking lines that might yield more runs, but also offers a better chance of taking wickets. It worked.
His first wicket was that of KL Rahul. He tossed the ball wide, even though he'd just been hit for a six and a four, and this time, Rahul missed a full-blooded lofted-drive and was duly stumped.
In his next over – the fourth of the innings – he was carted for four boundaries by Chris Gayle. When he returned to bowl nine overs later, Gayle was cruising at 63 from 35 deliveries and looked set to power Punjab on to a big score. Gayle welcomed the youngster back with a slog-sweep over deep mid-wicket. Lamichhane delivered the next ball – a wrong'un – from well behind the crease, and Gayle went big again.
This time, the Jamaican was caught in the deep – a fantastic relay effort between Colin Ingram and Axar Patel. Later that over, Lamichhane had Sam Curran caught off his own bowling to seal a fine individual performance.
Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi captain, who scored a fine fifty to help overhaul Punjab's 163/7, was all praise for the youngster. "He's a very confident lad," said Iyer. "Even last year, when he used to go for runs, he used to come back really strong.
"Obviously, seniority of Amit Mishra [former India leg-spinner] helps him a lot. He's got a lot of experience and he shares [that] with Lamichhane. But [the] young lad, he's fearless and really positive in his approach."
I firmly believe that he is one cricketer in India who could win his side – be it Delhi Capitals or the Indian team – games from hopeless situations.”@KrisSrikkanth on @RishabPant777 👇https://t.co/zQuHi1lOJF— ICC (@ICC) April 12, 2019
Lamichhane acknowledged the IPL had been a huge learning curve, but while he is happy to do well in T20 leagues, he is ever committed to Nepal cricket. "I'm very thankful to Nepal cricket, because I've done really good for Nepal cricket in the past year and that's why people from Delhi Capitals, they [picked] me last year," he said.
"From there [it] completely changed my life because I got to play three games, did really good for Delhi Daredevils [as Delhi were known last year]. After that, I've not had to look back at my journey.
"Last time I played three games, but this time I've to play a lot of games. That's where I can improve myself, so that if this time I'm getting seven to eight games, I would like to make sure, next time, I will play all the 14 games."
Lead image: AFP
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