Paras Khadka’s retirement leaves deep void in Nepal cricket

Paras Khadka

Paras Khadka, former skipper of the National Cricket Team will go down as Nepal’s greatest, most celebrated, acclaimed, recognized, popular and successful cricketer.

Khadka, a true legend of the game, hung up his bat recently. The news of his retirement came as a complete surprise to the sporting fraternity.

Undoubtedly, the skipper in his early thirties had a few years of international cricket left in him. In other words, he could have easily prolonged his career.

However, he stuck to his decision and called it a day much to the disappointment of his legion of fans and admirers across the globe.

His contribution to Nepal cricket stands invaluable and goes well beyond numbers when it comes to making headway in international cricket.

There is no arguing the fact that his outstanding leadership skills and contribution to the team as a player made a big difference. He played a vital role in shaping and building the future of Nepal cricket.

He was and will continue to be the standard-bearer for Nepal cricket. His retirement marks the end of the era. In retrospect, his career can be best summed up in two words. Fulfilling and rewarding.

Nobody disputes the fact that he was a towering figure on and off the pitch. On the field, he let his batting and bowling do the talking. His impressive batting average and a very useful bowling record elevated him to a solid all-rounder status.

He will be remembered as a dashing, technically sound, and solid right-handed batsman. He was the backbone of the team’s batting line-up and played the anchor role for the most part.

The team heavily relied on his batting prowess. His repertoire of skills and shot-making made him a feared batsman. He scripted countless memorable match-saving and winning innings throughout his career.

Besides, he proved himself to be quite a skilful bowler, as well. He bowled right-arm medium-fast and occasionally off-spin. His cricketing ability and brilliance were given full respect by the opposition.

As the captain of Nepal, he was savvy, dynamic, intelligent, inspiring, motivational, bold, ambitious, caring, and an excellent communicator.

He led by example, be it during hard times or good, managed effective communication with players, and coaching staff, and was a calming influence on the team.

He was/is a perennial source of inspiration to upcoming aspirants. He took the role of a mentor and role model, helping and offering advice and encouragement to young upstarts who looked to him.

Off the pitch, he was a no-nonsense person. He was forthright, direct, and spoke his mind, always. He rose above petty politics and never shied away from publicly criticizing officeholders for failed governance and mismanagement.

He always prioritized the team’s best interests and worked for players’ well-being on all fronts.

No wonder, his leadership qualities and rock-solid stand on issues related to cricket earned him enormous trust, respect, high regard, and appreciation from his peers, teammates, cricket commentators, and sports journalists.

Khadka left no stones unturned when he burst onto domestic cricket. He proved himself to be a top-calibre talent and, more importantly, a very promising and gifted long-haul player.

He immediately made a lasting impression, prompting national selectors to keep a close eye on him. Given his progress graph, he rose like a phoenix.

He made his international debut at the age of 15 in 2002, following selection for the U-15 squad that played in Asia Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and in 2003 he represented the U-19 in the Youth Asia Cup in Pakistan.

2004 was a turning point in his career. First, he played in the ACC Under-17 Cup in India, followed by his maiden appearance in the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh.

Deservedly, he made his debut for the senior team against Malaysia in the ICC Intercontinental Cup. In addition, his first-class debut kicked off in the same year also.

When he was entrusted to lead the senior team in 2009, he faced huge challenges that seemed insurmountable and like a brick wall that was too high to climb over.

Nepal cricket needed a dynamic leader and team player with integrity, enthusiasm, desire, and capability of wearing different caps, who could put the team together and bring the best out of them.

He was the perfect fit for the job as he proved his worthiness in nine years( 2009 to 2019) of his captaincy.

All in all, he made 250 appearances for the senior team. In 44 List A matches, he scored 1497 runs at an average of 35. Likewise, he played in 10 ODIs and 33 T20Is scoring 315 and 799 runs respectively, making him Nepal’s highest run-getter in both formats of the game. Furthermore, he is the only player to have scored a century in both formats.

Above all, under Khadka’s captaincy, the Nepal cricket team benefited immensely and achieved many milestones. We witnessed Nepal’s steady climb in global rankings. It all started in 2014 after ICC was awarded Nepal Twenty20 International status.

In 2018, Nepal gained the all-important One Day International status. The national team made history after they clinched a spot in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh in 2014. Rest is history.

He stepped down from captaincy in 2019, and after much speculation and suspense, he put an end to his glorious and productive career in August 2021. Whether he plays in the domestic circuit is still a mystery. Should he be back in action, cricket aficionados across the country are bound to go delirious. They love to see the maestro back doing what he does best.

Khadka’s retirement has left a deep void in the national team he filled with exemplary leadership, outstanding contribution, grit, and commitment.

He leaves behind a legacy that will continue to inspire and drive the young generation of cricketers to succeed and be like him. His fearless leadership and incredible and ruthless competitiveness will be greatly missed on the cricket field.

The good news is that, as promised, Khadka will not be a silent spectator. He will do whatever it takes to help cricket grow and flourish. We can count on him.