The Rising Superstar: Nepal’s chance through Sports Diplomacy

Forty-two wickets in twenty-one listed international cricket matches; with the best figures of 5-20. The luscious number belongs to a seventeen-year-old Nepali spin bowler, Sandeep Lamichhane. Lamichhane played a vital role in Nepal’s pursuit of One Day International status; and got selected for both Indian and Caribbean T20 franchises in the past few months. The humble and ever smiling person from the rural region of Syangja is an upcoming international superstar. He has opened Nepal’s casket full of riches.

Sandeep’s mention does not hold any purpose to narrate the sorry state of Nepali Cricket. Although Lamichhane’s exploits will naturally expose the incompetency of Nepali Cricket Association(s), his craft will gradually conceal the hiding fortune of vibrant Nepali markets. Ask Delhi Daredevils, the franchise who bought the Nepali sensation for this year’s edition of Indian Premier League-the lush rich cricketing tournament in the world. The franchise did not only buy the first Nepali cricketer, but now commands fan base of the entire Himalayan republic. Just like India, Nepal is a culturally camouflaged nation. Culture sells. Social value determines brand equity. Nepal is still not a full member of the International Cricket Council but passionate fans keep tremendous desire; another Test playing nation in the Indian subcontinent is a distant but an eventual reality.

British cricketers put Nepal on the map after playing a competitive match below the Everest in 2009, but in a country small as Portugal, climate varies from cool and subtropical summers to mild and severe winters. For cricket, it is an opportunity to play at contrasting pitch conditions. Just like football, cricket is followed avidly in Nepal.The equation is very simple. Cricket will only grow bigger if it can unlock the casket full of riches for Nepal. Lagging behind, the ball is now in Nepal’s court. Cash moguls will rightly be licking their lips; but how should Nepal approach its moment of kismet?

Sports Diplomacy

A young talented spinner could not have imagined that his sensational induction into world cricket has provided Nepali administration with an abundance of diplomatic manoeuvres. The better he performs, the better it is for everyone. It will open doors for other young Nepali cricketers. Moguls will happily invest in players, facilities and stadiums. It will take brave hearts to strategize it, but partnerships with franchises, as the Indian Premier League (IPL) is very much possible. You can call it a fantasy, but Nepal could even host IPL matches in the future. South Africa hosted the entire tournament in 2009.

Diplomacy works like that. You give some and grind the most out of it. Hardly a dozen of nations play international cricket regularly. Moguls understand that their money could quadruple, if more nations engaged with the sport. Nepal is the safest bet; an economy that is anticipating a historic acceleration after solving major political problems. Cricketing business could add value to its bloodline-tourism. The entire experience of playing and enjoying the sport will transform in the picturesque nation. However, where to begin with everything?

Partnerships, Partnerships & Partnerships

If Sandeep’s recent success is not convincing enough, wait for him to perform at this IPL season. More scouts will land at Kathmandu, looking for young talents all over Nepal. The Nepali market of cricket consumers as well as players will be open for grabs; and, the first to step in will win over a huge pie of financial success. While building academies will help Nepali players, government could utilize the vast choice of training spaces in India. It will take good diplomacy for the best bargain; but Nepal’s recent cricketing success will only encourage partners. The Indian decision makers are smart; they will happily facilitate the development of Nepali cricket at the exchange of strengthening bilateral ties that have unsettled in the recent past. Moreover, let us think from a retrospectively humble position-not every national can play in the theatrical Indian Premier League. There is an obvious reason to why everyone believes that Sandeep’s selection for the Delhi franchise could not have been simpler. Call it historical relationships between Nepal & India or a natural one; bilateral affinity has worked on Sandeep’s favour. Everyone with big pockets are waiting for their tempting share of Nepali treasures. Sandeep Lamichhane, the leg break bowler from Syangja has opened the gates. Hope fully, when the teenager will keep surprising excellent batsmen, Nepal will sincerely work towards capturing its moment of kismet.

Sisir Devkota
Sisir Devkota
Global Affairs Analyst based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Founder, Trainer & Researcher at "The Protocol" which facilitates analytical research on current affairs and workshops on Diplomacy and Leadership. Masters of Social Science in Democracy & Global Transformations from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Author for a book chapter titled as "Armed Conflicts in South Asia 2013".