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For this Nepali soldier, cricket pitch is where his battle is

Bikram Sob (8)

When Bikram Sob was growing up in Pithoragarh in Uttarakhand, India, local teams approached him to go play in Dehradun, the state capital.

Sob wanted to play cricket with them, but he knew that his parents, especially his dad, a jeweler, would not approve of it.

“I toyed with the idea for sometime. But dad would never approve.”

“I thought my dad would not have the money to pay for the travel and accommodation,” says Sob, who secretly nurtured his dream to play top-level cricket someday.

“I used to watch the South African pacer Dale Steyn play. I liked his bowling, rhythm, his attitude and energy. When playing with friends, I would try to imitate his action,” he remembers.

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Bikram Sob (2)

In November 2015, Nepal’s national cricket squad, still shaken by the April quake, was playing in Abu Dhabi. The squad, which was to stay home to play its World Cricket League matches against rivals Papua New Guinea in a few days, was playing a two-day match against Hong Kong.

“That night I went to my room a bit early, and reviewed my performance. I tried to understand what had gone wrong.”

On the first day of the match, Sob, who was selected as one of Nepal’s strike bowlers, could not take a single wicket in the eight overs he bowled. “That night I went to my room a bit early, and reviewed my performance. I tried to understand what had gone wrong,” he remembers.

The next day, the army man, was on fire. In his second over of the day, Sob got opening batsman Waqas Barkat caught behind, then showed Aizaz Khan, the number three, his way towards the pavilion in the same fashion. Tanwir Afzal, who was on strike on the ‘hattrick’ ball, managed to put his bat to ball. But he was out LBW the next ball.

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Sob and his family, originally from Mahendranagar in Far-Western Nepal, migrated to Pithoragarh in 1994 looking for better opportunities. They stayed there for 10 years, and then decided to come back to Nepal.

“I had finished my SLC, and my brothers their Plus Two. We had no option but to move out of the city for further education.”

“Dad said let’s go back to our own country, and we packed our bags.”

Sob, who had not been to Nepal for 10 years, did not know cricket was fast becoming a popular sport in Nepal. The family’s decision to return home proved as a blessing in disguise.

Back in Nepal, he played for the local U-16 and U-19 squads. His side, Baitadi, even won the national U-19 tournament in 2012.  But he never received a call for the national side at the age-group level.

“I think it was then that I realised that making it to the national squad required something extra. It was combination of skills and fitness.”

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Bikram Sob (1) (1)

In 2013, Sob was thinking of quitting cricket and concentrating on his studies, when cricket got him an opportunity to join the army. The national army was looking for youngsters for its cricket team, and the fast bowler was on the list of probables.

“There were times when I wanted to quit and go home. But my love for cricket kept me going.”

Soon he was training to join the army. “The training was rigorous. You only got few hours of sleep,” he remembers.

“There were times when I wanted to quit and go home. But my love for cricket kept me going.”

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After his stellar performance against Hong Kong, Nepali fans expected that he would get a place in the important match against PNG. But he didn’t.

“It was because we saw that PNG players were comfortable playing pace. So the coach decided to go with spinners. That was the reason I was not selected.”

sob with team
Sob with his teammates. Photo: Subash Khakurel/ instagram

But as Nepal prepare to play a friendly against Marylebone Cricket Club in England on July 19, and a WCLC series against the Netherlands in their home turf, Sob is optimistic. “The wickets there are going to be fast, and spin will not be effective,” he says.

“The battle will be between their batsmen and our pacers.”

Photos: Shreedhar Poudel

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