Hobart Hurricanes' new recruit Sandeep Lamichhane is on the mend after testing positive for Covid-19 and the Hurricanes are hopeful he will be available to play for his new BBL club in January.
Lamichhane is part of the Hurricanes' new-look squad for BBL10 with coach Adam Griffith and his list management team making a raft of signings this off-season to reshape the squad and fill the holes that left them vulnerable in last season's Eliminator loss to Sydney Thunder.
Lamichhane was poached from the Melbourne Stars and replaces Qais Ahmad as the Hurricanes' overseas legspinner, but a positive Covid-19 diagnosis has threatened his availability. He tested negative for the first time last Thursday and appears on track to return to the BBL.
"I've spoken to him a couple of times via text," Griffith told ESPNcricinfo. "He's very upbeat. We just got a message that he tested negative in his most recent test so that's a good sign.
"He's still got a few more hoops to jump through from a medical perspective to make sure he's good to go but it's sounding as positive as it can from our end. We've just got to make sure that Cricket Australia is happy, the medical people are happy and he's in a good space to get out here. Hopefully, it won't affect our original plan of when we were going to get him out here and have him available."
Afghan spinner Mujeeb-Ur-Rahman tested positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine in Australia and had to be hospitalised. But the Hurricanes are confident Lamichhane will be able to get Australia as planned.
"We were looking to get him here mid-December, do his two weeks quarantine, and then like all of these guys, when they come out of quarantine, just assessing where they're at because they'll have been sitting in their hotel room for a couple of weeks," Griffith said.
"We don't want to put them in a no-win situation where we are asking them to do something they're no ready for yet. Again, that's one of the positives of having five overseas on our books this year. We can manage them to hopefully get the best out of them and hopefully have them ready to go."
Griffith has convinced former Hurricanes player and South African international Johan Botha to come out of retirement as cover for Lamichhane prior to his arrival.
The Hurricanes' recruiting drive has been one of the boldest in the BBL signing Lamichhane, Dawid Malan, Colin Ingram, Keemo Paul, and Will Jacks as part of their overseas contingent, as well as Peter Handscomb from the Stars.
Griffith said the club had set themselves up to be aggressive in their recruiting after three consecutive seasons of making the finals without claiming the ultimate prize.
"After reviewing the season last year we thought we didn't quite have the depth we needed in certain areas of our list and with how we managed our list over the last couple of years, we've been able to get ourselves in a really good position salary cap wise to be able to sign these guys," Griffith said.
"It's pretty exciting for us. The options we have in front of us for the coming season, I'm really happy with the guys we've brought in. It's the most even and deep list we've had in a while now."
The balance of the top order was the first problem to solve. The Hurricanes have been heavily reliant on their opening pair of D'Arcy Short and Matthew Wade over the last three seasons. The pair have made 1085 runs in 20 innings together over the last three seasons, averaging 57.10 with nine 50-plus partnerships including a stand of 203 against Adelaide last season.
But Wade's absence due to Test duty last year tested the depth of the order and the Hurricanes were found wanting. They made a play for Malan from a long way out and were delighted to sign the No.1 T20I batsman in the world, however he will be unavailable for the first four matches due to quarantine. Handscomb might be an equally important addition given his experience in the competition.
"He's just a very good player, a very skilful, proven performer, and he makes hundreds," Griffith said. "He's made a hundred at BBL level which is something that we covet with our top order players.
"He's an excellent player of spin which is probably an area we've struggled a little bit at over the last few years. Just his experience, to be able to play different roles as well. We won't pigeon hole him into a certain role in our batting group."
Jacks may be the surprise packet. The Hurricanes have a history of picking future England players, having had great success with Jofra Archer. Jacks has worked with Hurricanes assistant coach Michael Di Venuto at Surrey and Griffith thinks they might have found another one.
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"What I love about him is obviously his aggression and his skill with the bat and the ball but he's just keen to get out here for an opportunity to show what he can do," Griffith said. "We try to do that most years, give an opportunity to an overseas player who has not necessarily burst onto the international scene yet but we've seen plenty of him at the domestic level and we think it's only a matter of time before he plays for England.
"We hope we can be one of those vehicles to help him achieve that and if he helps us win games of cricket along the way then it's a win-win for both of us."
Keemo Paul was the final piece of the puzzle. James Faulkner is fit and his troublesome knees are as healthy as they have been for many years, but the Hurricanes felt they needed another bowler who could clear the fence in the later overs. Ricky Ponting was the key to getting Paul through working together at Delhi Capitals.
"He was glowing in his endorsement of him," Griffith said. "Not only from a cricket perspective but also from a character perspective. I got a chance to catch up with Keemo in Dubai and that skill set that he brings is probably something that we don't necessarily have in our group at the moment. To be able to bat 6-7-8, clear the fence from ball one and then bowl through the middle and at the end, so he brings something that is a little bit different."
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne