Despite revamping their squad at the Indian Premier League 2018 auctions, Delhi Daredevils have seen yet another season go by with qualification for the playoffs out of reach. On Saturday (May 12), they succumbed to a five-wicket loss against Royal Challengers Bangalore in New Delhi, which was their ninth loss in 12 games, and third in a row. The defeat officially ended the slimmest chance Delhi had of making it to the final four.
Rishabh Pant’s whirlwind 34-ball 61 was the chief catalyst in propelling Delhi to 181 for 4. But Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers strung together a 118-run third-wicket stand and took the game out of the home side’s grasp. Delhi’s bowlers were sent on a leather hunt as the visiting side chased down the target with an over to spare.
Sandeep Lamichhane, on IPL debut, was the lone bowler to make an impression as he returned 1 for 25 off his four overs, two of them bowled in the Power Play. “We had a meeting yesterday and I got to know that I will be playing,” said Lamichhane after the game. “It was the decision of the captain and the coach. It has been wonderful, I played well today.”
Lamichhane, still only 17, also became the first Nepal cricketer to take part in the IPL. However, he showed no nerves in a first spell that read 2-0-7-1. Incidentally, it was also the first time he was bowling with the new ball in his still-short professional career.
“To be honest, I have never opened the bowling before,” said the legspinner. “This was the first time. I have never done it international cricket as well. I was very excited about it. If you get a chance to play against a good team like RCB against good batsmen, I was really excited. I worked hard yesterday with the new ball as well.”
Shreyas Iyer, the Delhi skipper, handed the first over to the legspinner despite seeing two left-handers – Moeen Ali and Parthiv Patel – taking guard. Lamichhane varied his length smartly and mixed up his googlies to concede only two runs in the opening over before trapping Parthiv in his second over.
“Being a legspinner, if you are bowling against two left-handed batsmen they are going to charge at you,” explained Lamichhane. “I was just making sure that I bowl in good areas, good line and length and there were some good balls in the very first over. I bowled a few googlies. It went good and was a very good debut for me.”
With just two more games left before the season draws to a close for Delhi, Lamichhane acknowledged the significance of his stint with the franchise. “It has been very good, these one and a half months here,” he said. “The most important thing is how you are learning all the time. I have learnt a lot of things. We have got an exceptional coach and a good captain. All the players are very good. I have been very lucky so far. These moments never come very easily. I think I still have a long way to go and I have to do a lot of hard work.”
Lamichhane had been spotted by Michael Clarke, the former Australia captain, in a Twenty20 game in Hong Kong, and since then, the two have shared a close bond. Lamichhane said he regularly exchanged notes with Clarke. “We are so close. We spoke to each other and he said I have done a great job today. I am upset because the most important thing is the team’s win. If your team is not winning then you must be upset.”
The teenage spinner also highlighted the importance of the IPL, having gained popularity in other leagues too soon after Delhi bought his services at the January auction.
“These kinds of leagues (IPL) can help you grow your game,” offered Lamichhane. “You have to stay busy with cricket. I am playing for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots (in the Caribbean Premier League). There is a lot of talent in Nepal. I think the journey has been started. There will be a lot of opportunities for the players in Nepal.”
While Lamichhane said that sharing the dressing room with the likes of Ricky Ponting, the coach, and senior players like Gautam Gambhir was an education, he revealed that he gelled well with players in his age-group. “They all are fantastic guys,” he said of Ponting and Gambhir. “It’s always easy to get in touch with your age group guys like Prithvi (Shaw), Manjot (Kalra), Rishabh (Pant), Abhishek (Sharma) and the others, they are of my age group. It’s always easy when you are interacting with them because I know them for the last two years. It was great to see Abhishek, the way he was hitting (the ball) and enjoying himself.”