Cover Story

PARAS KHADKA: BORN TO PLAY

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My dad remembers Jagat Gauchan as the man who went to Japan and broke the shin of a Kyokushin master with a swift sweeping kick. Shihan Jagat Gauchan (as he has now become a master instructor) excelled at his sport, his passion and he is still doing what he loves. Ganesh Thapa was a legend in the Nepali football scene and is now the President of ANFA (All Nepal Football Association). 30 years from now Paras Khadka will also be recognized and acknowledged as one of the legends of the Cricket world in Nepal.

A few minutes with Paras Khadka and you’ll feel like you are talking to a professional cricketer. At 6 feet and 2 inches, Paras Khadka’s imposing frame compliments the somber and clear-cut attitude he projects at first impression. Once you get to know him more, you’ll see the more charming side of him. The side which helped me eat the cheese meant for the photo shoot. You’ll probably know him as the captain who led our upcoming National Cricket Team into the ICC Division 2 league. Those of you, who aren’t really into cricket, should have seen him around billboards in the city. He was previously in one for Ncell in the overhead bridge in Pulchowk and more recently for Pepsi with a wad of cash spread out in his hands. If you still don’t remember, he can be seen on dailies for being nominated as The Pulsar Popular

Player of the Year 2069 and for receiving a new Demak. If you still can’t get a handle on who he is, you need to come out of the rock you’ve been hiding under for the last year.

But, for a person who has gained a considerable celebrity status in the Nepalese crowd, he is amazingly down to earth. Not once did I feel like he wanted to be treated as anything of a celebrity, and maintaining that humility after a certain amount of press stardom is commendable. His modest upbringing might be to thank. As an average kid who grew up in Baneshwor, Paras Khadka was brought up to respect his elders, believe in god and always be honest. Thankfully, these traits have stuck with him and partly accountable for who he is today.

At South Point Boarding High School, sports came naturally to Paras, and not at the expense of lagging academic performance. So, his parents never forbade him from indulging in whatever extracurricular activity he was into. Liberalized to play any sport he was interested in, Paras started participating in every sport he could get his hands on. Basketball became his hobby and if he wanted to he could probably have made a career out of it as well. However, cricket became his life.

Paras Khadka showed traces of brilliance in the sport from his stint in interschool cricket tournaments. In the 10th grade, not only was he selected for the Under 15 Inter-School Cricket Tournament, he was awarded the best player for the tournament. His achievement caught the right eyes and he was selected for the regional cricket team of Kathmandu. In 2002-2003, he acted as the vice captain for Nepal’s Under 14 team, then came Under 17 and Under 19. Without much of a plan, everything came at him at full speed but he kept knocking them into place.

ONCE YOU GET TO KNOW HIM MORE, YOU’LL SEE THE MORE CHARMING SIDE OF HIM. THE SIDE WHICH HELPED ME EAT THE CHEESE MEANT FOR THE PHOTO SHOOT.

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However, the skipper of the National Team of Nepal did not always see himself going too far in the sport. Having already played at the Under 19 Cricket World Cup in Bangladesh and seeing no one he could possibly replace from the senior members of the national squad; Paras thought he was done with cricket. Add to that his choice of Science as his core subject in +2 and cricket seemed like a little too much on the plate. In order to focus on his studies, he declined a chance to go to the training camp… at first. His parents on the other hand encouraged him to give it a try, having come so far and doing so well. Deciding that it was worth giving a shot, Paras trained hard at the camp, like he always does. One thing led to another and before he himself knew it, he was in the national team.

And that is how everything has been in his life, and I assume it is the way he likes it. I wouldn’t go as far as labeling him a daredevil, but he believes living life as it comes. It is a thin line to walk on, but it can’t be all bad considering where he is today. Nevertheless, it does not mean you can lay back and wait for the world to spoon feed you to successes. Paras may not plan out each and every step in his life but the fact that he works honestly at what he does is what sets him apart.

“It’s a delicate balance of luck and determination. God has been good to me and I will do what I am doing for as long as I possibly can. I know I was born to play cricket.”

He says it with such conviction that you can’t doubt it, he probably was born to play cricket. It is his passion. But there is something else that reassures me about his passion for the sport… he does not earn a rupee from the sport itself, and neither do any of his team mates. Of course there are perks of being the captain: fame, the face of Pepsi, enough motorcycles presented to him to open up his own little shop and many more; however that does not make up for the fact that he, nor any of the other players, are making any money.

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In a time when the sport of cricket is gaining grounds in terms of popularity as well as success, players barely have any initiative to continue playing for their nation. Luckily for us, they are passionate enough to struggle through solely on their passion for the sport and the hope that things will get better. The potential for success of the sport is tremendous! With India, probably the undisputed heavy weights in cricket, a stone’s throw away from Nepal there is so much potential for the sport prospering in our country if we could have some sort of association with them. What’s more, it’s not like cricket is lacking popularity right now either, as proved by the 20000 spectators flocking to Kirtipur to see the ACC Twenty20 Elite Cup.

The squad isn’t lacking in talent either. Paras Khadka went to Canada Ontario Academy and Club last year to play which was a first for our nation. This year too, two of our players, Gyanendra Malla and Basanta Regmi went to Canada to play there too. Needless to say, the talent is there, but you can’t force players to play the game without proper incentive, especially when the team is in its growing phase.

IT’S A DELICATE BALANCE OF LUCK AND DETERMINATION. GOD HAS BEEN GOOD TO ME AND I WILL DO WHAT I AM DOING FOR AS LONG AS I POSSIBLY CAN. I KNOW I WAS BORN TO PLAY CRICKET.

“That’s why cricket in Nepal needs a proper domestic structure. We need to have more games conducted at all age groups.”

Paras will also be the first to admit, that cricket is a team sport and the captain is only as good as the team. Winning is what a team always aims for, but it is important to be able to take losses in stride and learn from every opportunity.

It is just a matter of determination and perseverance. In the case of Paras, luck, religion and honesty play a huge role in success, at least for him. But I feel there is a lot more to him that he probably won’t admit himself. All the same, I must admit, he is cut out for the sport right from his love for it to his tall frame which is not too common for the Nepali masses. And it’s a good thing he realized he was born to play cricket. When I asked him if he had a backup plan if cricket hadn’t worked out, he said he would’ve definitely been an architect. Luckily, cricket worked out, It would have been terribly difficult to talk a determined man like him out of that one.

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Words: Ankit Shakya

Photos: Shashank Pradhan

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