‘He kept an eye on me. He is a kind man, a humble soul, who has helped me grow’
Michael Clarke claims to have done nothing but ‘smile’ everytime he saw Sandeep Lamichhane bowl but Nepal's first Indian Premier League-contracted cricketer says he owes his growth to the former Australian captain.
Clarke has been like a mentor to the 17-year-old Nepal leg-spinner who has scripted history with a Rs 20 lakh IPL contract with the Delhi Daredevils.
Clarke could never really warm up to the IPL like many of his fellow Australians. A graceful Test batsman, he played just one season with the now defunct Pune Warriors in 2012, scoring 98 runs in six matches.
"Michael Clarke has had the biggest influence on me as a cricketer. From the time, he saw me bowling at the Hong Kong Sixes, he kept an eye on me. He is a kind man, a humble soul, who has helped me grow as a cricketer and a person," Lamichhane said during an exclusive interview from Dubai.
Clarke, on his part, has been modest about the ‘influence’ that Lamichhane spoke about.
"I did nothing mate apart from smile every time I watched him bowl," he had responded on Twitter when his role in his growth was pointed put.
Even before IPL players' auction, Lamichhane had been in touch with Clarke, calling the interactions therapeutic to an extent.
"Speaking to him helped me relax. It was a lifetime experience to have played under him for Western Suburbs Cricket Club in Sydney grade league. That has been a huge gain for a young player like me," he said.
The leg-break is his stock delivery but Lamichhane has become more confident about executing the googly as well.
"I always had a good leg-break but I have now developed an effective googly working hard with my Nepal national team coach Raju Khadka," the teenager said.
"So when Delhi Daredevils summoned me for trials I was fully confident that their coaches would be impressed with my skills. And in any case if you don't have self confidence, you can't play the next level, that is IPL," he added.
While the tiny Himalayan nation still can't boast of great cricketing facilities, Lamichhane said he is nonetheless indebted to Cricket Association of Nepal for backing him.
"Yes, it's true that we only have one proper cricket stadium in Nepal but we have had the determination. I owe it to Nepal cricket as playing for my country got me the prominence. If I have got a contract with Delhi Daredevils, it is because of my performances for the national team," Lamichhane said.
His childhood idols are Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne.
"As a child, the two people whom I looked up to were Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. For me, they are the two greatest cricketers. I would never miss an opportunity to watch whenever they played. I would watch their recordings," Lamichhane added.
Lamichhane has been flooded with calls from people of all walks of life and he is just soaking in the appreciation that's coming his way.
"I have got congratulatory messages from Nepal ministers, general people. My father says that IPL is my opportunity to make my country proud. I would need to grab it with both hands," he concluded.