Sandeep Lamichhane hopes to steer Nepal past 'every thick and thin' of dispute with board

New national team captain, who is currently playing in BBL 2021, also talks about Test aspirations

Sandeep Lamichhane is Nepal's highest wicket-taker in international cricket  •  Peter Della Penna

Sandeep Lamichhane is Nepal's highest wicket-taker in international cricket  •  Peter Della Penna

Newly appointed Nepal captain Sandeep Lamichhane says he hopes his team-mates will be able to move past a turbulent period off the field, in which players have been engaged in a protracted payment dispute with Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN). The dispute ultimately resulted in the axing of Gyanendra Malla as captain and Dipendra Singh Airee prior to Lamichhane's appointment.
Speaking from Australia, where he is currently playing for Hobart Hurricanes in the Big Bash League, Lamichhane expressed confidence that the Nepal squad would be able to move past recent off-field disagreements and rally together to perform well enough on the field to qualify for the 2023 T20 World Cup.
"It's an honour for me to lead this country," Lamichhane told ESPNcricinfo. "There's been a lot going on between players and CAN. In this tough time, we have to back up each other. All the players and CAN have to come in one place to take Nepal cricket to next heights. It's a tough time for Nepal cricket but I'm looking forward to getting this team through every thick and thin so that we have a great time ahead.
"It hurts to see all these things right now. There's nobody who can help us to go through it. There has been a lot of ups and downs. But the kind of skills our players have and the kind of big heart they have, I'm pretty sure they're going to represent Nepal and prove themselves. [Malla and Airee] are one of the main pillars of the Nepal team. Though they are not captain or vice-captain or don't have that tag right now, but for me they are still the best players in the team."
A number of current players have voiced their displeasure on social media in the past week after Malla, Airee and allrounder Sompal Kami also had their central contracts suspended for six months. Former captain Paras Khadka also put out a statement in support of the players in their ongoing dispute.
"We are in support of our cricket players," Khadka wrote. "Justice has to be served. Hopefully CAN will take its decision back and players can start training to focus in preparations for the T-20 World Cup qualifier in February and to maintain our ODI STATUS in coming days."
Lamichhane, meanwhile, is looking forward to the arrival of Pubudu Dassanayake after Christmas following the announcement that Dassanayake has been hired to start a fresh tenure as Nepal head coach, having had a successful stint from 2011-2016.
"He is the real architect of Nepal cricket and the one who made the definition of cricket in Nepal," Lamichhane said of Dassanayake. "Especially for me, the way he took me from nowhere to the national camp. Definitely it's going to be a pleasure for me and for all the players. There's going to be a lot of changes and a lot of positivity around when Pubudu comes back to Nepal. I'm looking forward to good times and uniting the team."
Lamichhane has also set his sights on lifting Nepal beyond ODI status. He hopes he can play a major role in leading Nepal not just to their maiden ODI World Cup appearance, but also to attain the long-term goal of Test status.
"We have been saying one thing all the time: we have to play World Cups and be a Test nation," Lamichhane said. "Definitely it's going to be a new challenge and as far as I'm there, we will put everything possible from our side to become a Test nation as well. I haven't taken the field yet but it's an immense pleasure to lead this beautiful country, not only this squad of 21 players and people including staff members, but it's an immense pleasure to lead 30 million people around the world, all the Nepalese people. So I'm definitely looking forward to it.
"Every team goes through ups and downs. A lot of things have happened in the past, but from here onward me as a leader, we are only looking for brighter days ahead. Everybody who is dreaming to play for this beautiful country and performing for this country, for me as a leader it will be a good challenge and I hope to get the best out of any player. That's my motivation for right now to help us win games."

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna