If you followed Nepal’s march in ACC Trophy Elite, you could not have remained unaffected with one man’s performance. That of Nepal captain Paras Khadka, who not only took the responsibility of scoring most runs in the tournament, but also took wickets during important phases in many matches with his military medium (pace) bowling.
With his performance, he has made his coach say that ‘Paras is the best captain among associate cricket nations’. If you followed the twitteratti of facebook dwellers, you would like his new nickname ‘Captain Cool’. To me, the story began long, long ago.
A decade ago, during one of the club matches at capital’s Tundikhel one youngster – probably in his mid-teens – caught yours truly’s attention. Not because he batted or bowled like a child prodigy. But in the manner with which he took a catch.
The fielder, the youngster, caught a skier off then Nepal captain Raju Khadka – a name that drew awe in Nepali domestic cricket circuit – with an ease that was hardly seen in many seasoned players during those days. The youngster, I was later to learn, was Paras Khadka.
Those were the days, when you would not see many journalists on the cricket ground, especially Tundikhel – yes, that’s as good as Shivaji Park of Nepal – so you can bet not many watched that match. It was the manner, the ease, the poise, with a bit of élan, that this boy showed – for that brief moment – would have made you feel that he was meant to be special. Coolness personified…
Little did we know then, that it was an indication that the younger Khadka was eventually to replace the older Khadka in the scene. It was only apt that Paras played his first match for Nepal, during Raju Khadka’s captaincy in ICC Intercontinental Cup versus Malaysia in 2005. He took two catches, a wicket and scored 40 odd runs, coming in when the score was 38 for 5 and announcing his arrival.
In the seven years that has gone by, Paras Khakda has become leader of the pack called Team Nepal. To judge a sports leader we need to compare them on a few criteria. Integrity, dedication, openness, creativity, fairness and assertiveness being some of those. His integrity and dedication has never been in question, since he decided to play for Nepal – despite saying it was all over for him after U-19 team. He scores well in other departments too, especially in creativity and assertiveness. His out of the box thinking has startled opposition team many a times, as he has used as many as four bowlers in the first four overs of the match. He has rarely let the opposition dominate with his assertive batting, scoring at more than run-a-ball on most occasions. Not many in Nepali team play pull shot with as much authority. Additionally, his presence – the coolness factor, as many would like to call it – in the pack, makes him a special one. Hardly ever would you see him wavering, even as the situation is dire.
During U-19 World Cup Plate semi-final, when Nepal was playing South Africa, the Proteas needed 10 runs off the last over with 5 wickets in hand, when Kanishka Chaugain (captain of the side) threw ball to Paras Khadka. Khakda conceded 7, and Nepal won. You may not call him strike bowler of the side, but his calmness got Nepal home.
Many a times he has been brash, going to the extent of criticizing the boss of Cricket Association and its officials. To be fair to him, he did that during the leadership of Binay Raj Pandey (the President who was ousted last year) and he does that now, when the entire regime has changed. As he says, “I’ll continue to be aggressive. As long as I perform, I will be in the team. If I don’t, I would be out.”
If you’ve seen him closely, you’d hope he continues performing.
(PS: This write-up appeared in yours truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu Post – OFFSIDE – on 13 October, 2012)