Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

How Subash Pradhan continued his cricket journey after the 2015 Nepal earthquake

Former wicketkeeper did not lose hope despite hip injury ending his playing career

Subash Pradhan during the World Cup League Two at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. Subas Humagain for The National
Subash Pradhan during the World Cup League Two at the Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal. Subas Humagain for The National

Subash Pradhan might be forgiven for looking at the young stars of the Nepal national cricket team, playing one-day internationals in front of an adoring public, with hint of jealousy.

Had life worked out differently, that might have been him. As a wicketkeeper-batsman, Pradhan had reached the top level of the game in his country, and been to an Under-19 World Cup.

He is still only 32, the same age as his contemporary and former club-mate Paras Khadka, the great hero of Nepal cricket.

But Pradhan has not played cricket in five years. Not since the 2015 earthquake that devastated this country left him with a dislocated hip, after the house in which he and his family were sitting down for lunch collapsed.

One of his targets while he was rehabilitating was to play cricket again one day.

That never happened, but he has found contentment after rebuilding his life.

Literally, in the form of a new family home, on the same plot as the one his grandfather had built, which was razed by the earthquake.

He lives inside it now, too. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, he feared going into buildings, expecting them to collapse in the way his family home had.

Instead, he opted to sleep in a makeshift tent made from two poles and a blue tarpaulin sheet.

Time has healed his fears, as well as his injuries, even though he does get the occasional flashback.

“By the grace of God, I belong to a good family,” Pradhan said.

“After one year, we had built our new house, and until now we all are staying happily in that small house.

“Even after two years, if I ever went to the second floor, I would fear that it would shake again, and I would again be buried.

The April Nepal earthquake left cricketer Subash Pradhan with a broken home and body – but also a resolve to fight back from the hip injury and resurrect his career. Pawan Singh / The National
The 2015 Nepal earthquake left Subash Pradhan with a broken home and body – but also a resolve to fight back from the hip injury. Pawan Singh / The National

“But time moves on. Right now, I don’t live on a second floor. We all live on the first floor.”

When the earthquake struck, Pradhan had enveloped his sister, Paru, and niece, Srijana, in a tight embrace as the walls caved in around them. All three, as well as Pradhan’s parents, survived.

“For two to three months, there was trauma for me,” Pradhan said.

“I was in the fifth floor in the hospital, and every day and every night was like a nightmare for me. There were aftershocks regularly.

“In the fifth month, my old colleagues and friends visited me, and junior players came with their bats and wanted my autograph.

“I realised that God had given me a second opportunity, and I had to make something of it.

“Because of cricket, people know me. The youngsters knew me, they said they used to watch me batting, and that they admired me.

“That gave me motivation. I kept thinking, since I woke up in this hospital bed, I had to do something with my life.”

I realised that God had given me a second opportunity, and I had to make something of it

Subash Pradhan

A return to playing did not eventuate, despite that being his stated aim.

Instead, he organised a college cricket tournament, to be played on the same date as when the earthquake happened. He soon discovered he had a penchant for event management.

“I played for 15 years, and I definitely wanted to carry on playing,” he said.

“But when you suffer a serious injury like the one I suffered, it wouldn’t allow me to play. My physio said I could cycle, jog, and do normal things.

“You cannot cheat your nation. If I am not 100 per cent fit, and cannot perform 100 per cent, it is not fair to take some other player’s place.

“It is better to move onto the next thing. For me, that was management.”

What started with a college tournament has become a vast enterprise that has brought organised cricket to thousands of schoolchildren across the country, as well as a 50-over competition for senior domestic players.

His biggest endorsement might be the fact that the company he has built, Nepalaya International, have been commissioned by the ICC to be the event organisers for the ongoing Cricket World Cup League Two.

That involves everything from liaison with the riot police, ensuring there are medical professionals on hand, and even overseeing the ticketing system.

Not content with all that, he also runs his own franchise in the Pokhara Premier League, and is planning a new franchise league, including global star names, for later this year.

“I played 15 years with the domestic and national team, and I don’t know anything other than cricket,” he said.

“I cannot go for a banking job, or something overseas. If I couldn’t play, there are many players who want to play for the national side. Because of them, we might play Test matches in the future.

“If you can’t play any longer, you still have to try and contribute, and give something back to this game that has given you everything.

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Big day for Nepal cricket

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“If I wasn’t doing this job, maybe the fact I can’t play again would hurt me. But I am not far away from cricket.”

He has been besotted by the sport since he lived in India between the ages of eight and 13.

His introduction to the sport was a tough one. His new neighbours did not let him join their games of gully cricket, on account of the fact he was Nepali and, they assumed, he did not know the game.

So he went away and taught himself how to play using a thapi, which is a wooden paddle used widely in South Asia for laundry.

“In India, cricket is everywhere,” he said. “My uncle watched cricket, and he taught me how to play.

“In India, wherever there is a gully, people play cricket. I always used to watch. One day I plucked up the courage to ask, ‘Brother, can I play?’

“They said, ‘You are not from here. I don’t think you can play. It is better for you to sit down’. I went home.

“I found a thapi, which is bat shaped, and got a plastic ball. I would throw it against the wall, and hit it as it came back. I used to practice all the time on my own.

“After two months, I went back and said, ‘I really want to play, please pick me in your side.’ They said OK, that I was good, and that I could join their team.”

When he moved back to the family home in Kathmandu aged 13, he found a city in which his beloved sport was scarcely played. Not like he was used to in India, anyway.

So he asked if he could go to live with his mum’s mother in Bhairahawa, a town near the Indian border where cricket was more developed.

“I told my parents I wanted to go and stay with my grandmother and study,” he said.

“In the border area there was more cricket, and I started my career there. I played U15, 17, 19 in the national side. That is how my journey started.

“I had stayed in India for five years, and cricket is booming there. So when I came back, I definitely wanted to play. That is what drove me to Bhairahawa.”

And, while he is not longer an active participant in the sport himself, he is cheered to see how Nepal cricket is developing.

“There is much hope for Nepal cricket,” Pradhan said.

“If we keep developing, maybe in five to six years, we can get Test status. Things are definitely changing."

Updated: February 7, 2020 03:37 PM

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