Sandeep: IPL selection ‘a huge thing’ for Nepal

17-year-old Sandeep Lamichhane became the first player from Nepal to feature in the cash-rich IPL after Delhi Daredevils snapped him up for Rs. 20 lakh.

Sandeep Lamichhane (left) trained and played alongside Michael Clarke at the Western Suburbs cricket club in Sydney.   -  Twitter (@IamSandeep25)

Sandeep Lamichhane was heading to the practice session in Dubai when the news of his purchase by Delhi Daredevils in the Indian Premier League (IPL) broke out.

And within seconds, all his team-mates of the Nepal team made it a point to congratulate Sandeep, and despite being far away from home, they decided to celebrate the moment. After all, on Sunday, Sandeep became the first player from Nepal to feature in the cash-rich IPL after Delhi Daredevils snapped him up for Rs. 20 lakh.

Though he did not fetch big money and was sold at his base price, it was a big moment for the 17-year-old. “It is a big honour for me to be a part of the IPL as the first cricketer from Nepal. It is a huge thing not only for me, but also for entire Nepal,” Sandeep told Sportstar from Dubai, where the team is preparing for the Division Two of the World Cricket League — to be held in Namibia.

‘Biggest opportunity’

He plays for a national team which does not hold ODI or T20I status yet, but that has never stopped the young leg-spinner from pursuing his dreams. “This is the biggest opportunity that has come my way and I have to grab it with both hands. The target would be to give of my best and perform to the potential. The entire country will be counting on me,” Sandeep said.

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Even though he was picked in the auctions on Sunday, Sandeep had made a name for himself ever since the U-19 World Cup in 2016. Nepal finished eighth in the tournament; Sandeep scalped 14 wickets, becoming the second-highest wicket-keeper in the tournament with an average of 17 and an economy rate of 4.67.

In the tournament, he also bagged a hat-trick against Ireland, becoming only the fifth bowler in history to achieve the feat in the U-19 World Cup. That’s how the world noticed the Nepal youngster.

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A year and a half ago, he also caught the attention of former Australia captain Michael Clarke while playing together for Kowloon Cantons in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz. The Nepal boy impressed the former Aussie captain so much that Clarke sent him an invitation to him to represent the Sydney-based club Western Suburbs in the Australian grade cricket in 2016. “I was very lucky to have got that support from someone like Clarke so early in life. I grabbed that opportunity with both hands,” Sandeep said, making it clear that with IPL nearing, it is time for a new challenge.

‘Newer challenges’

“I have always believed that cricket is all about newer challenges. Every day will throw up more challenges and you need to tackle them. I would like to keep this mind and prepare for the IPL,” Sandeep added.

There is another reason behind the youngster’s excitement. He will be back to India after a really long time. “I have spent a bit of my childhood in India as my father used to work here at that time, I got hooked to cricket,” Daredevils’ new recruit said with a smile.

As a child, he would watch the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly on television and would dream of playing the game someday. Even after returning to Nepal, he made it a point to continue with the game that he had fallen in love with. “I would go on playing and that’s how it all started.”

The stint with Delhi Daredevils will allow Sandeep return to India again and perhaps would also bring back the memories of childhood. So as most of the players treat the IPL as an opportunity to earn huge deals, for a young cricketer from an associate nation it is also about coming to a country where it all began. Many seasons ago!