From a humble start to a global breakthrough, Sompal Kami’s career gathers momentum

- Adarsha Dhakal, Kathmandu

Jun 23, 2019-

Sompal Kami grew up watching cricket in his locality in Punjab where his parents had migrated to in search of work. It was not unusual for him to dream about playing big games, especially in the wake of the glitzy Indian Premier League.

"But I wanted to play for the Nepali national team," said Kami who returned to Nepal in 2013 with whatever skills he had honed while he was in India.

Kami, who entered into the national team as a bowler, has established himself as the best all-rounder now.

On Thursday, Kami made a global breakthrough when Winnipeg Hawks bought him for $3,000 in a draft pick for the Global Twenty20 Canada.

"While watching IPL or other franchise leagues, I had this feeling that we also deserve a place in these games. I am happy that the time has come for me," Kami told the Post on Friday. The six-team tournament takes place from July 25 to August 21 in Canada.

Kami is the second Nepali cricketer to be picked for any international T20 league after Sandeep Lamichhane, who has also been roped in for $60,000 by Toronto Nationals, another franchise in the Canadian league.

The Global Twenty20 is a premier competition in Canada which has attracted several international stars like Chris Gayle, Andre Russell, Tim Southee, Shoaib Malik, Kane Williamson, Faf du Plessis, Ben Cutting and Shadab Khan.

"I am happy for Sompal dai," said Lamichhane on Kami's selection in the Canadian league. "I always wanted to see more Nepali players in foreign leagues. I am glad that my selection by clubs in some big T20 leagues have made a positive impact on cricket followers in Nepal. They have started believing that we have what it takes to perform at a higher level," said the leg spinner, who has played in two editions of the IPL along with several other franchise leagues across the world.

"There is a lot of talent here in Nepal. And I expect more Nepali players to get opportunities in big international tournaments."

With the Hawks featuring a host of established names in international cricket, including Australian Chris Lynn, South Africa's JP Duminy and West Indian duo of Dwayne Bravo and Dwayne Smith, the Canadian league will be a big learning curve for Kami.  

"I take this as a good start; it's going to be a great experience for me to play alongside the stars whom I have watched only on TV so far," said the 23-year-old pacer.

Over the last six years, Kami has improved on other aspects of the game—beyond raw pace.

He was first introduced to Nepali cricket by Nepali Cricket Fans Club on Facebook—a group of Nepali cricket supporters. Social media might have come to his aid but selectors’ faith in Kami was vindicated as he was one of the major contributors in helping Region No 3 Kathmandu finish second in the National Twenty20 tournament.

His first major success in domestic cricket came as a batsman at the U-19 level when he cracked back-to-back centuries in the Regional Selection Tournament for Kathmandu. As he was preparing for the 2013-14 ACC U-19 Asia Cup in Dubai, then national team coach Pubudu Dassanayake drafted him in the senior side—but as a bowler.

"I didn't have much variety in my bowling at that time except that I used to bowl bouncers with raw pace. I was totally focused on batting until Pubudu sir told me that I was going to be a key bowler for Nepal," said Kami, who is among few cricketers to have jumped from the junior ranks straight into the senior national team.

Since making his debut for the national team through the 2014 ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifiers in New Zealand, there has been no looking back for Kami.

His all-round performance was pivotal in handing Nepal their first ever victory in the One-Day Internationals. He made 61 runs and took 1-41 against the Netherlands in the country's tour of Europe.

Having improved on his batting technique to complement his pace bowling—Kami is currently ranked among the best Nepali batsmen in the team—he has redefined himself as a genuine allrounder now under the newly appointed national team coach Umesh Patwal.

Kami’s five-wicket haul against the UAE was instrumental in Nepal's historic ODI series triumph against the Emiratis in January. In the process he became the first Nepali bowler to achieve that feat.

In the series-deciding third one-dayer against the UAE, Kami demonstrated his batting prowess scoring 26 not out as the Nepali team held their nerves to chase down 255 runs—their highest in 50-over cricket.

Kami has a lot to offer for any franchises he would play for, but for now his first goal is to get into the Hawks playing XI.

"I am excited; my confidence has gone up. But there’s a long way to go,” said Kami, who has his roots in Churma, a village in Gulmi district in western Nepal, from where his family had moved to India.

“My father does not have much idea about the Canadian league,” said Kami when asked about his family’s reaction to his selection for the Hawks. “He believes playing the Indian Premier League is the biggest thing. I hope I would be able to make my father happy someday.

Published: 23-06-2019 07:35

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