October 24, 1987, Nepal
Right hand bat
Right arm medium fast, Right arm offbreak
A titan of not just Nepal but the entire Associate world, few people have had a greater impact on their country's fortunes on the cricket field than Paras Khadka. Literally and figuratively, he was a giant for his nation: the tallest with the broadest shoulders, more often than not the top-scorer and at times the leading wicket-taker too whether with his medium pace or his offspin. In terms of his domestic popularity, he was often described as Nepal's version of Sachin Tendulkar but his skillset was much more in line with Garry Sobers.
Making his U-19 debut as a 15-year-old and his senior team debut as a 16-year-old in 2004, he was earmarked early on as a long-term player for the future and by 2009, he had been made senior team captain. His tenure marked the start of Nepal's steady rise up the global rankings, from Division Five of the World Cricket League to a maiden berth in the T20 World Cup in 2014 - where they scored victories over both Afghanistan and Hong Kong - before eventually attaining ODI status in 2018.
Khadka played a total of 250 times for the senior team, and though his List A record of 1497 runs in 44 matches at an average of 35 may seem modest, Khadka's contributions often made the difference between Nepal reaching 250 or being bowled out for less than half of that. Because the talent surrounding him was threadbare, he regularly had to harness his naturally dynamic arsenal of strokes and instead focus on anchoring the innings. He was not just the spine of the Nepal batting order, but the brain, heart and all of the limbs too.
It meant that for the majority of his career, Nepal's chances of victory came down to his individual performances: whether that was with the bat, opening the bowling with medium pace, or contributing with offspin later on. For this, he was always held in the highest esteem by any opposition captain. Perhaps no greater embodiment of what he could do as a grafting matchwinner came in Nepal's first ODI victory, at Amstelveen against the Netherlands, in August 2018: scoring 51, then taking 1 for 24 at the death as well as a runout off his own bowling ripping the stumps out to secure the final wicket in a one-run win.
The only thing missing from Khadka's resume is a stint in major franchise cricket. His jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none skillset never caught the attention of bidders from the big money T20 leagues. As a result, he never got the acclaim he deserved outside of Nepal compared to his mythical status within the country. However, his influential role in paving the way for the next generation of players - like Sandeep Lamichhane - to reap those rewards cannot be overstated.
After nearly a decade in charge and just over a year after he helped his country secure ODI status, he stepped down from the Nepal captaincy in October 2019. He only played 12 more matches for Nepal, his career ending in somewhat anonymous fashion in a T20I against Thailand in Bangkok in March 2020. After having to sit out with an injury for Nepal's first action since the start of the Covid pandemic - a tri-series at home against Malaysia and the Netherlands in April 2021 - Khadka called time on his career in August 2021.
Peter Della Penna
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