Until 17 April, Kushal Bhurtel had not played an official international match for Nepal. Now, he is in the running to be named the ICC’s Men’s Player of the Month.
So who is the 24-year-old opener?
A big-hitting right-hander, Bhurtel has long been touted for success in Nepal. In 2016, he played in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, and the following year he was a part of the Nepal outfit that played the USA in a 50-over match that was not given List A status. In 2019, he made his List A debut, playing for Nepal in the Asian Cricket Council Emerging Sides Cup.
None of those turned out to be overly successful ventures for Bhurtel, but this April his true abilities emerged on the international stage.
Having been on the edge of national selection for years, Bhurtel made his T20I debut against the Netherlands at Kirtipur. He marked the occasion with a 46-ball 62 punctuated by five fours and five sixes. Given the chance to impress in the absence of the injured Paras Khadka, he took it with both hands.
The 62 was followed by an unbeaten 61, and another 62, as he became the first player to notch half-centuries in each of his first three men's T20Is.
He fell for 16 in his fourth outing and that turned out to be a blip as he finished the tournament in style, scoring 77 in a final Nepal would win by 142 runs against the Netherlands.
With 278 runs at 69.8 for the tournament, 106 more than the next highest scorer, Bhurtel was an uncontroversial choice for Player of the Series. An incredible 192 of those runs came in boundaries.
The ICC Men's Player of the Month nominees for April are in 👀— ICC (@ICC) May 5, 2021
Fakhar Zaman 🇵🇰 302 ODI runs at 100.66, two centuries
Babar Azam 🇵🇰 228 ODI runs at 76.00; 305 T20I runs at 43.57
Kushal Bhurtel 🇳🇵 278 T20I runs at 69.50
Vote now: https://t.co/ZYuKhVxbHF 🗳️#ICCPOTM pic.twitter.com/7dyVhwkFOo
The form continued a resurgence for Bhurtel, whose game has gone to a new level on Nepal’s domestic circuit of late.
It is a hot streak the cricket-mad nation will be hopeful he can continue in the years to come, with Bhurtel's own ambitions lying with the success of the team.
"Our seniors have worked very hard to get us here," he was quoted as saying by Online Khabar. "We just want to carry on making people proud and keep on winning as our goal is to play World Cups."