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paras khadka captain of the nepalese cricket team : the man with 20/20 vision

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The Gospel of John, reports Jesus feeding a multitude of 5,000 people just by using five loaves of barley bread and two small fish. There isn’t much verifiable truth to this, but this does highlight one key feature of us humans that sets us apart from the other animals: our ability to make the best of what is available to us. Be it making a Rs. 1000 note last a week by surviving on a diet of instant noodles or spending an entire day by playing with sticks and stones, we live on compromises with hope as the sole drive; a hope that things will turn out right.
And as Nepalese, that is what we have been doing so far. There is no denying that life is hard here. Everything has a glass ceiling. However, within all of those limitations, we make the best of things. And so does Paras Khadka. And he does so because he is a big believer of Karma.
Khadka says that when one does good, good makes a roundabout and greets them with a smile. This is a formula he’s been making use of all his life, and now, it came back to him in the form of the ODI status, making him a household name for Nepalese Cricket. And there is a good reason why he deserves to be: he has worked for it. This status grants our Rhinos the elite tag for the coming four years. They have managed to do it all without any support from associations or the government; nothing at all apart from the captaincy of Khadka.
So, with an optimistic look on the horizon, this is him on the future of Cricket in Nepal.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE QUALIFIED FOR THE ODI?
I personally feel content with it because it’s the fruit of all the labor we have put in. The ODI is of 4 years, and for that time period, we are stable in terms of how Cricket is going to function. In addition to that, the ICC and the whole world are going to look at us differently. There are going to be a lot of incentives coming in, contracts are going to be offered; in summary, a lot of things are going to turn out well for us.
The 2014 World Cup was a fabulous opportunity for us, and all of the effort we had put into it, and after it, has led us to achieving the status of ODI. I see this as a milestone for Cricket in Nepal, and though it is a great achievement in itself, it marks the beginning of a bright future for all of us. So again, I am happy, but this satisfaction comes along with more responsibilities, and I am eager to face them all.
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AND WHAT DID TAKE TO GET HERE?
Running! A lot of running!
It has taken a huge amount of hard work and determination, all coupled with individual sacrifices for the greater good of the team. I have been quite vocal about this in the past, and I shall be so now as well: there has been minimum effort from the administrators to get us to where we are. The height we are in now comes down to the efforts of the players and the coaches. All of the wins and loses we have experienced has put us up here. League back in 2008, and then we moved on to 4, got relegated, then came back up again and got to 3, then 2, and then 1. The ODI status is a privilege in this regard and we have the sweat to back it up.
Throughout the past five years, the pressure has significantly mounted and amplified itself; it is fortunate that Cricket is widely loved in Nepal, but it also brings along a lot of expectations from us. I feel that we are meeting them one by one, all of this being a gradual process. And standing here with the ODI status, we can only get better from here.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR TAKE AWAYS FOR YOU?
I think Cricket is my identity now. Bypassing all of the accolades I have received, the game has molded my personality. Even in my childhood, me being good in both my studies and sports, I was allowed to fully indulge myself in the latter. I got to take part in Football, Table Tennis, Basketball, Athletics, and Cricket of course, and I feel that has shaped me as a person.
There was a time during my +2 that I did consider going abroad as studies were my primary concern; Cricket was never in the plan. Yes, I did dream about playing for the national team and representing the country in a global platform, but it was on the side lines. Then again, as I played through Under 15, then 17, and 19, the whole process made me realize that maybe I can become something in this field, or pitch if you will. I found myself being invested in the game, and whenever I get myself involved into something, I make sure I do my best in it. Cricket is no different, and I am committed to take it to the highest height it can go.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO PLAY FOR YOUR COUNTRY?
Fabulous. The general respect that comes with it is a sensation to behold. There have been many instances where I have been greeted by fans and have them tell me that whenever the national anthem played before a game, their eyes tear up. When we encounter Nepalese in foreign countries, they say that Cricket is the only thing that makes them proud about their home, and that they feel a sense of competence when they speak debate with their Indian, Bangladeshi, or any other counterparts.
It’s just that people love to talk about Cricket these days, and I feel that we have enabled them to do so. And this, I’m sure the whole team feels the same, is the biggest achievement we have bagged so far. With an unmanaged system, we’ve gotten so far and I can only image the distance we’ll go with a well-managed one. However, that too can be seen in the horizon now.

3I FOUND MYSELF BEING INVESTED IN THE
GAME, AND WHENEVER I GET MYSELF
INVOLVED INTO SOMETHING, I MAKE SURE
I DO MY BEST IN IT. CRICKET IS NO DIFFERENT,
AND I AM COMMITTED TO TAKE IT TO
THE HIGHEST HEIGHT IT CAN GO.

THE ASSOCIATION HAS ALWAYS BEEN AN ISSUE. WHAT CAN BE DONE ABOUT IT?
It all comes down to investment in the game and the players, and the system itself too, so that everything is more proper and channelized. A lot of people are being involved now especially since we got the ODI. In contrast, I also hope that everyone does not try to come in just because of the money flowing in. If one really desires to grow Cricket in Nepal, and are stationed out in Chitwan, Biratnagar, or anywhere, I would rather have them stay in their locality and develop the scene there. This decentralized approach would help more than centralizing everything on the national team.

AND HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE GAME BEING COMMERCIALIZED?
It has to be. If you want to have a sport develop, the people of the country should widely follow it. And for that, you need to commercialize the game. It must be made something the whole country looks forward to. Even in our neighbor, before the Indian Premier League, every Indian wanted to be in the national team, but after it, every cricketer in the world wanted to be a part of it. The perspective was changed after the IPL started and people realized that they could actually earn a living out of it. And that happened because it was glamorized. So we should prioritize it, and without it, the attraction won’t be there.

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SO HOW ARE THE PREPARATIONS GOING?
For the last 2 years, our group has been suspended so we are being directly looked at by the ICC. There have been zero development works, but come June, the suspension will hopefully be lifted off. Until then, all we can do is go to the ground and train harder, become stronger, and perform better. That is the only strategy for now; apart from that, it’s all absolutely vague.

AND AMIDST ALL OF THAT VAGUENESS, HOW DO YOU MOTIVATE YOURSELF?

Love the game, as simple as that. Everyone in the team has always loved Cricket, and we all have united dreams, such as playing the World Cup, which we did in 2014. We now have our eyes set on the T20 World Cup, and the Test Play status. It is a process that may take 8 to 10 years, but if we start now, I’m sure I’ll be able to watch the team play with pride in my chest.

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HAVE THERE BEEN INSTANCES WHERE YOU’VE FELT YOU COULD HAVE DONE BETTER?
A lot of times. Especially when we have lost. Sometimes, things are not in our control. So even when we’ve trained harder than ever and given our best in a game, we lose the match because the opponent has done better than our best. In those cases, we have taken it up the chin and have made it a point to perform more efficiently.
In terms of administration, there’s a lot to be done. If there had been a proper one, we’d have two or three stadiums by now. The only international Cricket ground we have is in Tribhuwan University and it is in absolute shambles. But having that said, that is where we have cultured ourselves, and somehow we’ve groomed to look at the positive side of things. Rather than complaining, we’ve stayed on track and made the best of what is available. Eventually it all comes down to commitment and dedication rather than facilities as there have been matches where we should’ve lost, but have emerged as victors.

SPEAKING OF THE CRICKET FIELD, HAS ITS DISTRESSING STATE BEEN A MOTIVATION FOR YOU?
Things like that are never in our control. I can’t make it happen that the field is always plain and rockless or that there’s running water in the taps. But we have always felt that once we get to a certain level, things will sort out themselves. We saw that happening when we got to Division 5, then more when we got to 3,
and more and more as we moved on and up. So yes, the awareness of it has always been there and has driven each one of use to do better to have better.
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FOR THOSE LOOKING TO GET INTO THIS LINE, WHAT ADVISE WOULD YOU IMPART ON THEM?
For everyone, in general, my advice would be to be honest
in anything you do. Life as it is, everyone is not going to be able to make it. However, if you have been honest in what you have been doing, it will reciprocate and work out for you. For the aspiring sportspersons, it is important that you are aware about what it happening. The bureaucrats have shrouded the industry with a negative impression so it comes down to the athletes to fight against it and shine. So capitalize on the opportunities and do your best.

WORDS : NIRVEEJ PPJ SHAH | PHOTOS: SHASHANK PRADHAN

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