Sandeep Lamichhane and Paras Khadka can be “trailblazers” for Nepalese cricket, and create a “legacy for the country to build off”,” according to former Hampshire captain Jimmy Adams.
Adams, who captained the MCC on their recent tour to Nepal, told ESPNcricinfo that the standard of Nepal’s white-ball cricket in particular was “very high”, and that the country is well-placed to “go on and follow Afghanistan’s transition” into the top reaches of the game.
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The MCC’s recent tour comprised two games against the full national team, a 50-over game against the U-19 side, a T20 against a mixed national team and U-19 team, and two more T20s against invitational XIs. One of those games against the national team was a three-day fixture, which was Nepal’s first first-class match since 2005 and attracted a crowd of around 4,000 fans each day.
“The crowds were incredible really,” said Adams. “In the first-class stuff, we probably get a couple of hundred people for our four-day games back at home, whereas for this game here there were 4,000 or so.
“They struggled a bit in the red-ball game [MCC won by 208 runs] but they’ve barely played any red-ball cricket in the last decade. Their white-ball skill level was very high – certainly on their home tracks, they’ll be a test for many teams in associate cricket and maybe even beyond that over the coming years.
“I don’t know as much about their depth and the structure of their cricket, but certainly what we played against in that 50-over game and the T20s – it wouldn’t surprise me if they go on and follow Afghanistan’s transition.”
The tour was organised as part of the MCC’s legacy tour scheme, with the MCC Foundation funding a £56,000 project in Pokhara over the next year working with the charity Kidasha. Nepal were also invited to play in a triangular T20 series with MCC and Netherlands in 2018, those this project’s focus is primarily on infrastructure, with nets being laid, kit donated, and a schools league being established.
The tour’s manager, Richard Greatorex, told ESPNcricinfo that the squad – which includes recent England Test cap Tom Westley and former Pakistan allrounder Yasir Arafat – had coached “in the region of 300 children” in the past two days.
“[The coaching] has been very basic skills: just throwing, catching, basic bowling, how to hold a bat and swing,” he said. “At times it’s been carnage, but the enthusiasm and energy is phenomenal.
“The cricket has been truly amazing. The standard of the U-19 and national sides certainly far exceeded my expectations, and their fielding was on occasion world-class. The enthusiasm from the youngsters right through to the national side is immense.”
Greatorex also suggested that Nepalese players breaking into the franchise circuit would act as a springboard for those coming through.
“Sandeep [Lamichhane] is a cult figure,” he said. “And so is Paras [Khadka], who’s going off to the T10 competition in Abu Dhabi this week. Hopefully, within say three to five years, you might see another two or three players reaching those sorts of levels. They’ve certainly got the enthusiasm, passion, and desire to get to the very top – it’s whether that infrastructure supports them.”
Adams picked out the U19 side’s top three – Rit Gautam, Lokesh Bam and Khadak Bohara – as possible stars of the future.
“The U19s we played in the first game of the tour, their top three came out and played beautifully. They had a clutch of young spinners [too] – and in the 50-over game they had an offspinner who whacked it at the end [Pawan Sarraf]. Hopefully Sandeep can be the trailblazer for them, and others can follow him into that level of international recognition.”
The level of support clearly made an impression, with over 7,000 fans turning out for the T20 fixture against a combined U-19 and national team. Ollie Hannon-Dalby, the Warwickshire seamer, won “cult hero” status according to Greatorex, after doing the Viking clap on the boundary edge, while Adams said that Will Vanderspar – who had done ‘the worm’ in front of the fans – had arrived in Pokhara to people wondering if he was “the snake man”.
After being reinstated as a member by the ICC, following a three-year ban due to government interference in the board of the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), the return of vital funding from the game’s power-brokers means that the national team can begin to move forward again after a period of relative stagnation.
“For first-class cricket, it’ll take a number of years to get the infrastructure in place,” said Greatorex, “but certainly in ODIs, they could be competing really well within the next four years – they could be in the next 50-over, I’d think, and we’d expect them to be in the T20 World Cup in the next four or six years.”
For Adams, the need for regular domestic cricket is pressing – but again, that begins with infrastructure. “It’ll certainly help them,” he said. “They’ve produced players so far on the back of very little red-ball cricket, and for ICC status, to move forward with a first-class structure is quite important.
“It’s amazing how they’ve managed to do so much from the little facilities that they have in comparison to other cricket-playing countries, but I think it’s going to huge in the next five or ten years for them if they can make regional cricket stronger.”