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Sandeep Lamichhane makes history as Nepal's first IPL player

The 17-year old rose to prominence in 2016, taking 14 wickets in six matches at the Under-19 World Cup, and later playing alongside Michael Clarke in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz.

Michael Clarke and Nepal cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane share a reason to smile  •  Getty Images

Michael Clarke and Nepal cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane share a reason to smile  •  Getty Images

The latest spin bowling sensation in the Associate world, and now the first Nepal player snapped up by an IPL franchise after he received a INR 20 lakh ($31000) bid from Delhi Daredevils.
Why is his selection significant?
Despite playing for a national team that does not hold ODI or T20I status and is currently preparing for Division Two of the World Cricket League in Namibia, Lamichhane's selection represents proof that there is a desire to reward highly skilled talents regardless of their background. Associate players as a whole gained more respect and recognition over the past year by virtue of the success enjoyed by Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi first with Sunrisers Hyderabad and continuing on with their respective CPL and Big Bash League franchises.
If there was a worry that such attention on scouting Associate talent might dwindle now that Afghanistan has been promoted to Full Membership, Lamichhane's selection says the opposite. In the same manner that Rashid and Nabi's success may have contributed to a higher level of attention paid to Afghanistan teammates such as Mujeeb Zadran and Zahir Khan, both of whom received bids in the 2018 IPL auction, the same possibility exists that any IPL success achieved by Lamichhane could be a gateway to more Nepal players securing IPL bids in the future, such as captain Paras Khadka or vice-captain Gyanendra Malla, two of the most dynamic batsmen in all of Associate cricket.
However, a season riding the bench for the Daredevils could see him back fall into anonymity in the same manner as Chirag Suri, the 21-year-old UAE batsman who was a surprise pick last year by Gujarat Lions but never took the field and did not come back for bidding in the 2018 auction.
What are his strengths?
Despite being only 17, Lamichhane already has a wealth of experience in various competitions under his belt and, coming from a strong cricket culture which regularly sees crowds of 15000 attend domestic matches in Kathmandu, it's doubtful that he'll be overawed by the magnitude of being a part of the IPL.
Among the higher profile players Lamichhane has trained with are Shahid Afridi and Michael Clarke, both of whom were his team-mates at Kowloon Cantons in the Hong Kong T20 Blitz. Despite only bowling three overs in a rain-affected tournament in 2016, it was enough to catch Clarke's attention and he subsequently received an invite to train under Clarke with Western Suburbs in the Sydney grade competition. The bond with Clarke may have influenced Daredevils coach Ricky Ponting into taking a punt on Lamichhane.
What has he been up to recently?
Lamichhane took 12 wickets in nine matches for Nepal during the WCL Championship. He also took nine wickets in seven matches last month in Nepal's franchise T20 competition, the Everest Premier League.
What are the highlights of his career?
He first gained attention at the 2016 Under-19 World Cup by taking a hat-trick during his 5 for 27 to set up an eight-wicket thumping of Ireland. In the knockout stages, he outshined Shadab Khan in a three-wicket performance against Pakistan and finished with 14 wickets in six matches, second-most in the tournament.
Three months later, he played in his first overseas T20 competition when he was drafted into the Kowloon Cantons squad for the inaugural Hong Kong Blitz. It was there that he made the crucial Clarke connection to chart a course towards the IPL.

Peter Della Penna is ESPNcricinfo's USA correspondent @PeterDellaPenna