Lamichhane's T20 WCup future uncertain amidst visa quagmire

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By A Staff Reporter,Kathmandu, May 24: After getting acquitted of rape by the Patan High Court on May 15, Sandeep Lamichhane’s suspension in national and international cricket was revoked. The Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) then started the process of inducting Lamichhane into the squad for the T20 World Cup in June.

According to the CAN, they also sought permission from the International Cricket Council (ICC) to include Lamicchane in the World Cup squad. Moreover, a change in the announced squad was allowed until May 25 by the ICC. However, Lamichhane’s application for the visa was denied by the US Embassy in Nepal leading millions of Nepali cricket fans dissatisfied with the co-host. The USA and the West Indies are co-hosting the 9th T20 World Cup.

Ever since Lamichhane, on Wednesday, took to social media and announced that his visa was rejected, the Nepal-based US Embassy’s social media accounts and posts have been flooded with displeasure.

“And the U.S. Embassy, Nepal did it again what they did back in 2019, they denied my Visa for the T-20 World Cup happening in USA and West Indies. Unfortunate. I am sorry to all the well-wishers of Nepal Cricket,” read the Facebook post by Lamichhane.

As it was the second time that the US denied a visa to Lamichhane, the discontent has only intensified among Nepali fans. Lamichhane was denied a visa while trying to reach the Caribbean via the USA for the Caribbean Premier League in 2019.

While the visa rejection was withdrawn then and Lamichhane was allowed to travel via the USA later, it is uncertain if a similar scenario would repeat this year. The US Embassy has not disclosed the reason behind the denial of visa for Lamichhane citing it was against their provisions. 

Meanwhile, many have speculated that the recent denial was a result of the rape allegations against Lamichhane. A single bench of district judge Shishir Raj Dhakal on December 29, 2023, convicted Lamichhane of rape and the joint bench of Justices Sudarshan Dev Bhatta and Anju Upreti Dhakal reversed the district court decision and acquitted Lamichhane of the charge on May 15. Nevertheless, the plaintiff still has the option to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court against Lamichhane and the apex court could overturn the High Court’s verdict.

Nepali authorities trying 

Nepali cricket authorities have been requesting higher government bodies to lobby with the USA ever since Lamichhane was denied to participate in the T20 World Cup.

Chatur Bahadur Chand, chairman of the CAN, has also been expressing dissatisfaction with the visa rejection citing that the ICC’s response and the Patan High Court’s decision were attached to Lamichhane’s visa application.

Chand has also informed the media that the Prime Minister alongside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were requested to take initiatives in allowing Lamicchane to get a visa and represent the country in the World Cup.

Minister for Youth and Sports Biraj Bhakta Shrestha also met with CAN Secretary Paras Khadka on Thursday to discuss the visa issues of Lamichhane.

“The ministry is doing everything it can. The ministry has also sent a formal letter to the Foreign Ministry requesting assistance,” said Minister Shrestha. Lamichhane has been one of the most adorned players of Nepal. He has also participated in many international cricket leagues, including the Indian Premier League.  Lamichhane also holds the record for the fastest to 100 ODI wickets as he reached the milestone in only 42 matches. He had bettered the record of fastest 100 ODI wickets by Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan in 44 matches.

Moreover, Lamichhane now looks forward to joining Rashid Khan in the list of the fastest to 100 T20I wickets. Lamichhane currently has 98 T20I wickets in 52 matches. With two wickets in the next T20I, Lamichhane will equal the record with Rashid, who took 100 T20I wickets in 53 matches.

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