May 10, 2014

'If I see something wrong I cannot keep my mouth shut'

Nepal captain Paras Khadka isn't diplomatic, cries while watching movies, and supports Liverpool in football

Describe yourself in two words.
Honest and too straightforward.

Are you talkative?
I am not. But if I see something wrong I cannot keep my mouth shut. I will talk loud and clear.

So you're not diplomatic?
My friends tell me to be diplomatic at times. I cannot be. That is against my ethics, that is not me.

Do you feel like you are the most popular person in Nepal at the moment?
Cricket has become really popular and me being the captain makes me popular automatically. But the way cricket has picked up - in corridors, houses, schools, grounds - people are loving the game. Our performances in global tournaments like the World T20 has brought a new dimension to Nepalese sport as well as the whole country. It is a new beginning where anything and everything is possible. Hopefully we can take cricket to further heights.

Is cricket now more than a sport in Nepal?
It is like a religion now. Everybody is now interested in what the team is doing, what the players are doing. We have the audience. Now we have to build and invest in grass roots and regional cricket to help the younger generation play the game. It is just a beginning for better and amazing things.

Tell us something we don't know about you.
I cry a lot while watching movies. One of my favourite movies is Rang De Basanti.

How do you fight negative thoughts?
I tend to switch on and switch off easily to ward off negative thoughts.

The most important ball of your life so far?
It has to be the last ball in the World T20 Qualifiers against Hong Kong. We had to get one run for victory. And we managed to do it.

How does it feel to play in front of an empty stadium?
We are not playing against the audience. The more the audience the better it gets, and you enjoy the environment. We love cricket and we are happy playing, like we did in the streets, verandahs, schools and playgrounds.

Have you ever broken anything while playing cricket?
I was practising for an inter-school tournament at our ground in South Point Boarding High School. I was captain and we were training in a box net. Just then our school principal shouted from his balcony that there was to be no more hitting the ball in the air. I tonked the very next ball straight to where he was standing and it broke the window next to him.

Do you manage to walk the streets without being mobbed?
I need to wear masks at times now in public places. I can't do things I used to do earlier. I just can't walk out anywhere and everywhere. Earlier I used to do whatever I wanted to, which I cannot anymore because people recognise me easily.

A rule in cricket you want to get changed?
A non-striker should not be ruled run-out if the ball is deflected off the bowler's hand in the follow-through.

Do you have a sporting idol?
I like Steven Gerrard. I love Liverpool. In cricket I am a big fan of the Australian cricket team: they play hard, aggressive, to the point.

What gives you goose bumps?
Whenever you stand up for the national anthem. I remember the moment around the time we were fighting hard to beat Hong Kong to qualify for the World T20, when a huge section of Nepalese fans right behind our dugout were chanting our victory song. It was a special moment.

Is there sledging in Associates cricket?
Of course, there is. A lot.

What is the most difficult job of being captain of an Associate team?
You have to be stronger off the field than on the field. I have to make sure the administrators run the game the right way.

Now that you have made your World Cup debut, the bar has been set high. What is the key to evolve?
We have to be there at every World Cup going forward. We should dream big. Train hard, work hard, keep the discipline and have the determination. You just have to push yourself.

What more can the ICC do to help Nepal cricket?
It might sound a bit harsh but you cannot limit international cricket to just ten countries. I know you need different and better skills in longer versions but you can only improve if you play against better opponents.

Tell us about a memorable compliment you have received.
After our warm-up match against Ireland in the World T20, at the team hotel, just as I was about enter the elevator the security guard asked me which team I represented. Once he realised I was the captain of Nepal he said we played a good brand of cricket against Ireland and he enjoyed it. It was a nice to hear that people could identify and relate to Nepal cricket. That remark was something that made us feel we were slowly doing things the right way.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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