Living the dream with the ‘Gulmi Express’-I
Living the dream with the ‘Gulmi Express’-I
Sunday, March 9th, 2014
Yes! I can feel it. I can sense it. I literally find myself in and around euphoria of celebration and disparity of dejection whatever Sompal Kami goes through with national colors. Yes! He is that close to me, no not any blood relation or relative but I can proudly say I have been his biggest admirer/fan since I saw his game. I was lucky enough to work with him. It hasn’t been much of time for him, matter of month, from being a debut player in 15 men squad to lone pacer carrying the burdens of pace (fast is over-hyped) bowling and then keeping the Arabian and Dutch batting on check in his another debut practice series as a T20 player for Nepal.
I didn’t know him, when he first came to Nepal, most people don’t, obviously. The first set of introduction I knew about him was the fact that he had trial with the national managements in TU ground.
I didn’t saw him bowl or bat when he made headlines playing for Nepali Cricket Fan Club in Kathmandu District Cricket Association’s senior selection club games. To everybody’s surprise he batted than bowl to glory (going by the stats). He scored beautiful cameo full of classic strokes opening the innings for NCFC and bowled well though unnoticed. Then as much as I remember he went to Gulmi, his birthplace, and made much necessary Nepali Citizenship to further pursue his career which had started bright. Well, who knows importance of a citizenship than Sharad Vesawkar. In process, he missed final two games of which NCFC won one in last league round game and reached Semi. Unfortunately Som was not able to return back in time, credits:Bandhs in Gulmi, for Semis and NCFC led by Birat Raya, the president of NCFC, lost and failed to progress for finals.
No wonder he made it to Kathmandu District Team and went on to win the tournament with Som Pal being declared Man of the Series and Man of the final for his 70* runs in final match. During that innings, he finished with two magnificent sixes of both penultimate and final delivery of the innings. He was happy and shared his credits with Bhola Neupane, the secretary of Nepali Cricket Fan Club, receiving the man of the series award together. Not for other matches but I was present for the final match and was clever enough to get a snap with the future star. Honestly, then I hadn’t thought he will make it this quick to national squad.
I was a mere spectator until then. I just had a view of Sompal, little in appearance, a very thin voice, and always had that measured smile in his face.
First time I talked to him was in NCA, TU Ground. He was there called by coach to practice with the national team and just simply bowl in nets. That was the time when I first asked
about his academy in Punjab, it is run by Harbhajan Singh, the legendary Indian Spinner. And I asked, for adventure’s sake the most interesting facet in Nepali Cricket, about his pace. He simply had a smile. I insisted. He said a speedometer recorded in early 130s in some-kind of talent hunt program in Punjab. He was shy. Seriously, like a girl yet earned most vigorous talent in cricket, bowl fast. I was already fascinated by ‘India’ in CV, and I asked for more. He said he once was called to bowl in Kings XI Punjab’s nets. I said WOW and…, he added, he bowled to Adam Gilchrist. And mentioned, Gilly wore a helmet for his further deliveries after facing his first one. Well that was something a fast bowler will love to see and enough to inspire some butt-squeaking effort to impress further.
“ Yeah! Sompal was already discarded by the experts. Experts I mean: never mind, names won’t matter but to mention one, he babbled in commentary box of TU ground during a Kathmandu regional match that Sompal is utterly over-rated, he meant over-rated like hell, he picked up wickets just because he was hyped and doesn’t deserves to be in regional teams itself. I was fuming, but smiling to hear his voice which was louder enough for head coach to listen from his hotel room in Durbar Marg.”
Then he joined the national team mates for practice and bowled well to pick up 3 wickets adding to one dolly dropped chance by Gyanendra Malla. Actually, I’m getting muddled up here, I really don’t remember when was, but the next day it was partially raining and Som was asked to bowl in nets against another new comer Suraj KC from Delhi. Suraj played well. And that was the first instance when I saw him bowl from that close. He seemed way faster than Yagyaman Kumal who was bowling in tandem with him. Though it started raining hard and the curtains was down for the day. Next day, in next practice game, Sompal tasted reality, when he was bumped in to bowl an over to Basanta Regmi in an inter-squad match. He committed mistake, ought of little knowledge where Basant’s favourite arc is. Som kept feeding him outside the off, be it short or full and Basant kept dispatching them over and out to boundary.
It was the same day the final for KDCA selections was to be played. Me, Som and Bhola Neupane rushed to Pulchowk Engineering Ground from TU Ground for the match which was scheduled to start at 1 PM. Eventually which he won with his man of the match performance.
Sompal hadn’t much fuss to make it to the Regional team after his remarkable first outing in district games. He featured in Kathmandu’s regional squad along with Arjun Adhikari, the guy who deserves all the credits for Sompal’s turn of fortunes from an academy bowler to National representative.
Som opened the innings with bat for Kathmandu and bowled first change. He failed miserably. Maybe, the Punjab pitches were too good to play banking on his current national exploits. It was the time, when peoples, ok! most peoples, were already started to count their eggs before hatches. Yeah! Sompal was already discarded by the experts. Experts I mean: never mind, names won’t matter but to mention one, he babbled in commentary box of TU ground during a Kathmandu regional match that Sompal is utterly over-rated, he meant over-rated like hell, he picked up wickets just because he was hyped and doesn’t deserves to be in regional teams itself. May he had criticized Som on his expertise but he just didn’t said it he yelled it. I was fuming, but smiling to hear his voice which was louder enough for head coach to listen from his hotel room in Durbar Marg. I just smiled. I do that. Sometimes unknowingly out of anger. Som’s prolific got hit, and he was opinioned to not use head in his bowling and his batting just had the lucky period to be better than club cricketers but not good enough to bat at regional level.
As expected the over-rated Som Pal failed to impress any head in his first outing as full-proof Nepali player. Again, I was just a spectator.
Months gone, he stayed with his best-mate Arjun Adhikari in some hotel in Buspark. Som sustained his life somehow. He hadn’t had much money with him to stay in Kathmandu and in that regards the time to prove himself due to lack of extended cricket in Nepal. God bless friends like Arjun who supports you in those times and Bhola Neupane who helped as much as he could since Som arrived in Nepal, from introducing to Nepali system and setup to team/club to perform and stand authority. But unfortunately, Nepal’s cricket calendar tested his patience. He showed patience.
And finally after some month of wilderness, U19 Nationals were about to begin. I prayed to god time shall be adequate so that I shouldn’t miss the tournament due to my engineering commitments. And thanks to god, the nationals happened right between Dashain and Tihar holidays. I was free and I took charge of NCFC U19. Yes, I was appointed manager but to be honest just wanted to be around teams and witness their growth. Oh! I just love cricket. Along with Bhola Neupane as coach, we set our goals to dictate the things on our terms make a tournament winning squad around few talented cricketers we had like Som and Arjun. We first choose Sompal Kami, bossing around, he was the ultimate pick. Along with Arjun Adhikari and Bablu Yadav, new contingent from unknown roots of Nepal who played his childhood cricket in India with other National Cricket Academy players and the other half was selected by mini talent hunt organized by NCFC in Kathmandu Cricket Training Center before the U19 club games.
Sorry! But I will have to comeback for the second part! Wait for another part in couple of days. The Gulmi Express continues..