Lamichhane’s place in cricket training camp sparks outrageThe 22-year-old was included in the 20-member closed camp for ICC World Cup League 2 Triangular Series.
Rape-accused former national cricket captain Sandeep Lamichhane’s inclusion in the 20-member national team camp has created outrage on social media and could greatly tarnish Nepali cricket’s image, say experts.
Lamichhane, accused of raping a 17-year-old minor on August 21 last year, was released on bail on January 13 by Patan High Court. The Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court’s decision. An investigation is being conducted against him under Section 219 of the Criminal Code 2074. If the crime against him stands, he will serve a prison term of 10-12 years.
The national cricket governing body, the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN), not only lifted the suspension imposed on the 22-year-old cricketer through its executive committee meeting on Tuesday, but also included him in the 20-member national team camp announced on Thursday.
Nepal is set to host a triangular Series under the ICC World Cup League 2 in Kirtipur from February 14-21 featuring Namibia and Scotland.
The CAN had suspended him on September 8 after the Kathmandu District Court issued an arrest warrant.
Lamichhane’s inclusion in the camp has been lambasted on social media, with the hashtag #BoycottCAN trending on Twitter. There were also countless other tweets that criticised CAN’s decision without using the hashtag.
A Twitter user @bhaskargyawali wrote: “We have a judiciary that frees a rape accused on bail; a cricket association that removes the suspension, a selection committee that seconds the association’s decision, and chooses him for closed camp training; teammates who are more than willing to play alongside him and then there’s me—a bystander. Will it take another 200-400 years for us to become human?”
Another Twitter user @SomeshVerma questioned the integrity of other players of the camp. “My question to the other 19 players of the camp: “Why should we support you when you play against other teams? (You should stand either for or against the rape-accused … there is no middle path on this issue).”
Likewise, @Aanbika wrote: “The government is mum and so is the opposition. CAN is acting as an accomplice of the rape-accused. The public is saying, watch out! Let's gather at Maitighar at 13:00 tomorrow (Saturday). #boycottCAN.”
The CAN President Chatur Bahadur Chand, who is also the president of the Nepali Congress Baitadi district unit, did not respond to the Post’s question about why the cricket governing body had lifted the suspension on Lamichhane despite his rape case still being considered in a court of law.
While the League 2 matches to be held in Kathmandu are fast approaching, some Twitter users have urged Namibia and Scotland to boycott the series over the scandal.
@RameshBhushal wrote, “Hello, Cricket Scotland @CSMOA_ and Cricket Namibia @CricketNamibia1, could you please boycott the game with Nepal. Our team includes a rape accused player named Sandip Lamichhane . @CricketNep.”
Nepali Congress General Secretary Bishwa Prakash Sharma (@bishwaprakash77) wrote: “Asked CAN president over the phone: Should not an institution that adheres to sports rule follow the law. @PM_nepal_ [prime minister’s Twitter handle] himself is the sports minister. I request him to either congratulate him [Lamichhane] or tell them ‘let’s wait until the court gives its verdict in this case as well, and rectify the decision made in haste.’”
Replying to Sharma’s tweet, user @sujanshrestha07 asked: “Brother, he [CAN president] is more a Congress party worker than CAN president. What kind of party worker would disobey the instructions of the party general secretary?”
Another general secretary of the Nepali Congress Gagan Thapa (@thapagk) wrote: “Many have sought my views on CAN’s lifting of suspension against an accused, whose case is sub judice. I am very clear on this issue—a person facing a grave accusation like rape should not enjoy special privilege under any pretext.”
Talking to the Post, veteran athlete and athletics coach Raghu Onta said that CAN’s decision to lift the suspension was a blunder. “This is not an issue that can be brushed under the carpet. Even though Lamichhane is not a criminal until proven guilty, he is in the grey zone,” said Onta, a mentor of 13th South Asian Games gold medalist runner Santoshi Shrestha.
“The international sports community is watching us and this case will not only spoil the image of Nepali cricket but of the whole sports fraternity in Nepal,” said Onta.
Match fixing and spot fixing are smaller issues compared to Sandeep’s case, he added. “It could also be an attempt to divert attention from other issues of cricket,” he said while referring to the spot fixing incident at Nepal T20 League which has prompted a faction inside the CAN to demand the resignation of its top leadership.
CAN’s contradictory statements
The Cricket Association of Nepal has come up with contradictory statements on Sandeep Lamichhane.
On September 8, while making public its decision to suspend Lamichhane, it put out a statement saying that “... the CAN work execution committee has decided to suspend Lamichhane in light of the Kathmandu District Court issuing an arrest warrant against him for investigation into a rape charge.”
Back then, it had not tried to downplay the accusation against Lamichhane by terming it a ‘disciplinary action’.
But while lifting the suspension on February 1, CAN said “its board decided to lift the earlier suspension against former cricket captain Sandeep Lamichhane who was punished for violating discipline”.