What does Sandeep Lamichhane’s inclusion mean for the morality of Nepal’s cricket?

2 weeks ago 32
 Sandeep LamichhaneFile: Sandeep Lamichhane

Just like Sandeep Lamichhane, I too play sports. I’m 14 years old and just completed grade 8.  

Lamichhane’s actions, the rape charges against him, his conviction, the subsequent acquittal, his inclusion in the national cricket team, and the fact that he continues to draw support from across Nepal, including sponsors, has had made me wonder. 

What does national pride mean? What is sporting excellence? What lessons should I as a young aspiring student-athlete take from Nepal’s national cricket team and Lamichhane? 

Nation’s pride in question

I was never good at sports. But over the last few years, I have improved and gotten quite decent at a few sports. 

About a month ago, at the end of my school term, I received several sports awards including the most valuable player for my school’s badminton and athletics teams, and sportsperson of the year for my grade group. Of course, I wore a Nepal cricket jersey when I went on stage to receive the awards. It just felt right. Standing on that stage, people clapped, the bold white letters ‘NEPAL’ piercing through the blue lights that shone upon me.

A few days after I received the award, Lamichhane’s controversy flared up again after his application for a US visa to travel for the T20 World Cup with Nepal’s cricket team was rejected. 

In September 2022, Lamichhane was charged with raping a minor. A case was filed against him. Lamichhane was convicted in December 2023 after a 15-month trial. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison. On 15 May 2024, the Patan high court overturned Lamichhane’s conviction, coincidentally perhaps, just a few weeks before the T20 Cricket World Cup was scheduled to begin in the US and West Indies. 

Lamichhane has always maintained that he is innocent of the rape charges. He has never disputed his affair with the young girl, arguing that it was consensual. The courts have now determined she is not a minor, but she is still no more than just a few years older than me. 

I was shocked that not many spoke up during the 15-month trial. While the Scottish Cricket Team refused to shake Lamichhane’s hand, many across Nepal still celebrated him as Nepal’s cricket superstar. During the trial, after Lamichhane was out on bail, his cricket ban was lifted. His return to the team was celebrated.

Not many questioned his inclusion in the team. There were a few small protests but nothing that could be deemed significant, and certainly, much smaller than the number of people celebrating him. 

Is this us? Is this what we want to be?

Lamichhane may not have been criminally convicted, but his inclusion in the national team and the government’s efforts to lobby the US embassy for a visa for him to participate in the T20 World Cup is an example of moral corruption. It is our responsibility to speak up.

Including Lamichhane in the national cricket team sends a poor message to young aspiring athletes like me.

Kids like me get inspiration from the members of the national team. We merely not get inspired by their talent but also by their character. And in that regard, the inclusion of a player like Lamichhane is disappointing. 

Is Lamichhane’s actions the moral character that Nepal’s cricket body wants us kids to emulate? If we become as talented as Lamichhane, does that mean we do not need to take responsibility for our actions? If we excel at sports, can we get away with anything we want?

The country and Nepal’s cricket authorities have a responsibility to help me and other Nepali kids like me become not just better athletes but also people with strong moral character.

Lamichhane’s inclusion in the team even after rape charges was not only because of his talent. Not many jumped to the defence of the victim. The girl was under the spell and power of his ‘celebrity status.’ The overwhelming public response was all about Lamichhane. The silence in defence of the victim was deafening. 

Speaking my mind

How is it that our society has remained quiet about the abuse of such a young, vulnerable person? How come we are not thinking about the girl, the young victim? As a young person, I began to question what I should do. Do I just toe the line because he is a great player, or do I speak up? Do I follow the crowd, supporting Lamichhane, or do I speak my mind? Most importantly, whom should I, and other young Nepalis, really trust if Nepal’s society cannot speak out and protect its young people? Who is looking out for us?

There is so much corruption and despair in Nepal. Even religion has scandals. There is an ongoing controversy about gold being stolen while a Jalahari was being installed at Pashupati temple. Very few things are left that are still genuine. In my eyes, one of the few genuine things still left is sports. 

Young people of Nepal must unite to preserve the purity of sports and the integrity of character that true sport spirit builds. We must unite to establish a safe space for doing what is right. We must reject the failures of our adults and their compromise of morality. 

These are all difficult things to do. But it is time we start doing it. It is only us, the youth of Nepal that can reverse this compromise with morality and regain the purity of sports. 

On June 10, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) announced that Lamichhane would be included in the Nepali national cricket team for the T20 World Cup matches in West Indies. This is disappointing and sends a poor message about Nepal to the world. 

I call on everyone to break the silence. I call on everyone to turn off their television every time Lamichhane plays in a cricket match with the national team. Only by demanding higher moral character can we bring change. 

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