Nepal’s cricket squad on Tuesday headed to Pakistan for the ODI Asia Cup without its star spin bowler, who must stay home to stand trial for alleged rape, officials said. Sandeep Lamichhane, 23, was once the poster boy for the rise of cricket in Nepal, but he is accused of raping a 17-year-old girl in a Kathmandu hotel room in August last year. Lamichhane denies all wrongdoing.
“Since there is a case against him sub judice at the court, he is not going with us now — he also has some health issues,” Pradeep Majgaiyan, manager of the Cricket Association of Nepal, told reporters ahead of the team’s departure.
Lamichhane must attend the latest hearing in the case on Sunday, and Majgaiyan said it was hoped he would be able to later join the squad for the tournament. The six-nation ODI Asia Cup is scheduled from August 30 to September 17 in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, with cricketing minnows Nepal seen as the outsiders.
“There are still some days left for the match to begin, so there are still chances that he will join later,” Majgaiyan added. Last year, Lamichhane was suspended as national captain and arrested, but was freed on bail in January and Nepal then lifted his ban on playing.
Under his bail conditions, Lamichhane has been able to travel abroad, including to Zimbabwe for the World Cup qualifiers. Nepal failed to make the cut for the 50-over showpiece event in India in October. Skipper Rohit Paudel said Lamichhane still had his place on the squad.
“It has not been finalised yet that he would not play,” Paudel told a press conference. “We are hopeful that he will play — he is really an impactful and big player for our team. He has helped win several matches for us. So, we hope he will join us later.”
Nepal open the tournament facing hosts Pakistan on August 30 at Multan. A win at their debut Asia Cup would be a dream for the cricket-mad South Asian nation, whose side will compete against top nations including India and Pakistan.
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