Nepali cricket fans had a lot to cheer when Shakti Gauchan was named, along with captain Paras Khadka, in the Best XI of ICC World T20 qualifiers. Now that unorganized group is creating a lot of noise – especially on the internet – as Shakti Gauchan was called by one of the franchises of India’s huge money churning T20 cricket circus called Indian Premier League (IPL).
The story unfolded like this: Earlier in the week, an official from the IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals, Romi Bhinder, wrote a mail to Nepal coach Pubudu Dassanayake. “I would be heading to Jaipur tomorrow and I was thinking of involving your left arm spinner Gauchan for practice sessions in Jaipur.” The effect of that mail created an unprecedented buzz in Nepali cricket.
Now Romi Bhinder is not an unknown name in the sector of cricket development. A sports psychologist and a player at club level, he has also worked as a Liaison Officer and Assistant Manager with Rajasthan Royals.
When Gauchan was told of this by Dassanayake, he had every reason to be shocked. For he, along with other members of Team Nepal, were thinking of rest, following a tough tour to UAE where they played 16-team ICC World T20 qualifiers and finished 7th. The news of his call spread like wildfire and was celebrated instantly.
Nepali cricket fans dreaming of watching a Gauchan Vs Tendulkar contest maybe farfetched as of now (you would believe it was just about to happen, if you see the euphoria on the online social networking sites). But one thing is for sure. This is the biggest achievement for a Nepali cricketer so far. Being noticed by a member of the biggest cricket league, both in terms of money and international talents on display.
This is the team that has the likes of Rahul Dravid, Paul Collingwood, Brad Hodge, Owais Shah, S Sreesanth, Shaun Tait and Shane Watson. These names need no introduction. Shakti Gauchan will come in close contact with these players, bowl to them on the nets. And if he is lucky, there could be chances of promotion in the ranks. He has every opportunity – with his performance there – to make Nepal Cricket register in these minds. For they may not even know that cricket is played in this neck of the woods. For this, Shakti’s achievement needs to be celebrated. Whether he makes it to the playing XI of Rajasthan Royals, depends a lot on his luck and the rulebooks of IPL.
This success hasn’t just come about for Shakti instantly. Yours truly remembers doing a full length interview with him a decade ago, when he was a player for U-19 side. The main reason that made me interview him was the grit and resolve he showed on field and softness he showed off it, at an age many are still confused about what to do in life.
Meet him again and he shows the same softness, only the resolve seems to have grown stronger. The only difference is, then he was a top order batsman for the team, now he is a strike bowler. His story is much like Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan international, who shone in international cricket as a swashbuckling batsman, who could bowl; After more than a decade of making international debut, Afridi is a strike bowler for Pakistan side, in limited over cricket. This shows that Gauchan can understand the needs of his team and is ready to model himself according to that need. That keeps him in good stead when he goes into the net session of Rajasthan Royals.
Another issue here is, Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) has paid for Shakti’s travel expenses. That should be welcomed. Additionally, CAN can do more. Nepali cricketers have worked hard to create genuine interest in themselves. CAN has its task cut out to institutionalize it. As an institution, it can use its clout to get more and more exposure for its players. Shakti Gauchan should not be a one-off incident. He should be a start and not an exception.
And for Nepali fans, who want Shakti Vs Sachin on TV, they might have to wait. For now, it will be Gauchan Vs Dravid at the nets, which in itself is something to rejoice. For, that Rajasthan Royals’ captain has been Shakti Gauchan’s idol for long.
(PS: The write-up appeared in YoursTruly’s weekly sports column – OFFSIDE – in The Kathmandu Post, on 31th March,2012)