Rape-accused Sandeep Lamichhane in the national team: Will it save or spoil Nepal cricket?

Rape-accused cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane trains for the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 in Kathmandu, on Friday, February 3, 2023. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale
Rape-accused cricketer Sandeep Lamichhane trains for the ICC Cricket World Cup League 2 in Kathmandu, on Friday, February 3, 2023. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Since Thursday, social media in Nepal are going frenzy after Nepal’s cricket governing body, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), included Sandeep Lamichhane, a cricketer accused raping of a minor, in the squad of the Nepal-Namibia-Scotland tri-series, taking place from February 14 to 21 at the Tribhuvan University Ground.   

After the announcement of the squad, the cricket governing body is largely receiving flak from people of different walks while CAN has gone defensive. Whereas CAN says he is included in the team as he is the need, apparently to save the country’s ODI status that is at stake following poor performances, the opponents say it will instead tarnish the global image of Nepal cricket.

‘The need of the team’

Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) President Chatur Bahadur Chand speaks at a press conference about the charge of spot-fixing during the Nepal T20 League, in Kathmandu, on January 26, 2023. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) President Chatur Bahadur Chand Photo: Aryan Dhimal

On October 6, exactly one month after a rape complaint was filed against him, Sandeep Lamichhane was arrested at the Kathmandu airport. The Kathmandu District Court sent him to judicial custody to proceed with the case. But, on January 12, the Patan High Court released him on bail of Rs 2 million, still restricting him from going abroad until the final verdict.  

According to CAN, Lamichhane was included in the squad because the court order has not prohibited him from playing the match. 

“Respecting the court’s order, we will try to use Lamichhane’s potential as far as possible,” says CAN president Chatur Bahadur Chand. 

Since the beginning of the Sandeep Lamichhane rape case, CAN did not look committed to justice but negligent. For instance, the hearing of the Attorney General’s Office’s appeal against the High Court’s order to release Lamichhane was scheduled for Friday (February 3) but CAN decided to lift his suspension a day earlier. 

Secondly, CAN also did not conduct any kind of investigation even after finding Lamichhane spending a night away from the closed camp prior to the ODI series in Kenya in August 2022.  

Yet, CAN’s acting secretary Durga Raj Pathak says, “It is our responsibility to protect our children. CAN is Lamichhane’s guardian. Respecting the court’s order, we have decided to include him in the team.” 

CAN says it also studied international practices and consulted the ICC and the Office of the Attorney General before lifting Sandeep Lamichhane’s suspension.

“Everyone provided a positive response, and the national team was also in need of Lamichhane. There is no bad intention behind our decision,” adds Pathak.   

‘An insult to the nation’

People stage protest against CAN's decision to include Sandeep Lamichhane in a national team. Photo: Aryan Dhimal
People stage a protest against CAN’s decision to include rape-accused Sandeep Lamichhane in the national cricket team. Photo: Aryan Dhimal

But, the opponents think otherwise.

Activist Mohna Ansari says the government of Nepal has adopted the policy of zero tolerance for violence against women, but CAN, which enjoys government facilities, has breached the policy. “Can it do so?” she questions.  

“CAN office bearers are violating the constitution and considering their charter as a law. This is totally wrong,” says Ansari. 

The pride of the country will be affected if accused of such a Sandeep Lamichhane, an accused of a serious criminal offence, will be included in the team, she says. 

There are several similar voices on social media.

“Go to hell CAN  for normalising rape!,” tweets activist Hima Bista. “Including a rape accused on the national team is the worst form of gender-based violence and thank you National Women Council and every leader, especially female leaders, for being silent on this! #BoycottCAN.”   

Meanwhile, many Nepali people have decided to not support their own cricket team this time because of Sandeep Lamichhane’s inclusion. They have been running the campaign #boycottCAN.

Swarna Tamrakar is one among them. She tweets, “ I will stand by my decision of not supporting the Nepali cricket team as long as they have a rape accused in the team. #boycottCAN” 

“#BoycottCAN This team is not my Nepal National team,” writes another Twitter user Niroj Upreti.

Lamichhane used to be everyone’s favourite cricketer in the country, but now, it has been a different story.

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