Leading from the front!

By the times these lines are read, Nepal’s cricket skipper Paras Khadka would be acclimatizing in Canada, playing for Ontario Cricket Academy & Club, becoming its first Nepali signing.

Canada may not inspire awe as far cricket is concerned, at least not like the Test playing countries. But we cannot forget that this country has already played a World Cup, and has cricket history dating back to 1844, when it played first ever international cricket fixture, against USA.

As we rejoice the selection of Nepali player for his achievement, we also need to understand why he is where he is. Whether you meet him during the match or in a café, you notice the emphasis he puts on the lines ‘leading from the front’. With him it becomes a cliché. Talk to him for an hour and you realize he’s used the line at least 10 times, or maybe 20, perhaps even without realizing.

If you look at his performance, you realize that the words are not mere a part of a rhetoric, but conviction. Conviction has a strange way of manifesting itself, through performance, through attitude and sometimes also through words.

Opinions could be divided on whether Paras Khadka is the best ever cricket captain for Nepal. His supporters may say he is, for being the first captain to have won ICC tournament for Nepal – ICC World Cricket League Division 5. His detractors may say, it is too early to pass judgment. After all, he is yet to celebrate his 25th birthday. And he’s been in charge of Nepali team for just around two and half years. But, there are some in cricket circles already talking about him as the best. That is his biggest success.

Leading from the front is visible when the lad goes into the cricket field, commandeering his teammates (some of whom are older than him). You can hear him on the field, egging other players, aggressively but not too loud. He bowls, both medium pace and spin, and often returns with impressive figures. When batting, more often than not, he leads from the front too, putting a price on his wicket. It is not without reason that ESPNcricinfo glorifies him, saying, “He is also a man for a pressure situation.”

Leading from the front it was, when the captain won three ‘Man of the Match’ awards out of Nepal’s five wins in UAE, during ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in March this year. The team went on to be ranked seventh, out of 16 that played the qualifiers. We might as well remember that Nepal was ranked 16th before the championship started. Out of 14 T20 victories for Nepal, Paras Khadka has lifted the MoM trophy six times. Conviction or Commitment? Maybe both…

Apart from his cricketing skills, yours truly reckons, it is the off-field Paras Khadka that commands respect, not only from his peers, but also those who follow cricket.  It is impressive that a cricketer so young has taken stand for his teammates, without fail. Just before Nepal was to go to Italy to play in ICC World Cricket League Division 4 in 2010, he held a press conference, to tell Cricket Association of Nepal that players deserved to get something out of what the board was making commercially. It was not about making money, but also about the respect that the players deserve. He did not show slight bit of respect to the authority, no fear of being dropped and went ahead doing what he thought was best for his boys. He could be charged guilty for overspeaking, crossing his limits as a cricketer and captain, talking against the board. That perhaps was not his business. But then, he could be forgiven for the fact that he still criticizes present board, when he thinks it is not doing the right thing. Now that CAN has started giving monthly stipend to players under contract, Khadka – who endorses brands like NCell, UFO and Indian cricket equipment company SM – deserves some due for it too. A mix of aggression with dedication. Doubtless…

If Nepal does play World T20 in 2014, as Paras thinks, some credit should go to the man, not only for having the faith, but also for laying the foundation for it.

This write-up appeared in Yours Truly’s weekly column in The Kathmandu post – OFFSIDE – on 20th May, 2012

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