KATHMANDU: Nepal’s Dipendra Singh Airee is a 24-year-old policeman dubbed “The Tiger”, who hopes to use his record-breaking batting skills to boost his nation at the T20 World Cup.

Last September, Nepal’s victory by a staggering 273 runs against Mongolia was the biggest margin by runs in all T20s — but Airee’s astonishing part in that win included the fastest T20 fifty in just nine balls.

The rising star smashed sixes from each of the first six balls he faced, before completing his quickfire half-century to beat the previous record of 12 balls.

Then in April against Qatar, he became the third man to hit six sixes in a single over in a T20 international.

But he has also shown himself to be a stellar fielder, pulling off sensational catches and spectacular run outs — and hopes to provide a performance to make his Himalayan nation proud.

“I will do my best to play a role to make the team victorious”, Airee told Nepal’s Kantipur Television earlier this month. “I get motivated by the support I get from everyone,” he added.

“They call me by the name ‘tiger’ and that motivates me further. It makes me want to do as much as possible, to give my 110 per cent.”

‘AMONG THE FINEST’

Nepal head to the 20-nation World Cup sitting a lowly 17th in the ICC rankings, but Nepal’s chief selector Dipendra Chaudhary said Airee could make all the difference.

“His off-spin bowling is among the finest,” Chaudhary told AFP. “His fitness, work ethic, and team spirit stand out. I believe when we look back he will be counted as one of Nepal’s best players in history”, Chaudhary added. “He is very talented and hardworking. He began his career as a medium-paced bowler before transitioning into a batsman and now serving as an all-rounder.”

Airee said he was “very happy” to be going to the World Cup, recalling how he watched the last tournament from Nepal on a giant screen projected in a market.

“When we qualified, I was crying from the bottom of my heart,” he told Kantipur in an interview.

‘REMARKABLY GIFTED’

Humble and media-shy, Airee first played in the 2016 Under-19 World Cup.

“He was raw but remarkably gifted: he was noticed by the system at a young age,” Chaudhary said, adding that the policeman has a natural “shy demeanour”.

“He is extremely humble and speaks very little,” he said. “He is very ethical in his work and spends most of his time on the ground.”

The T20 World Cup begins Saturday, co-hosted by the United States and West Indies, with Nepal’s first game on June 4 in Dallas.

“We have prepared enough for the World Cup, but frankly other teams are better than us,” Chaudhary said. “But it is a game, and we hope for good games and a good performance.”

Nepal’s preparation had been overshadowed by a push to include controversial star Sandeep Lamichhane in the squad, after the ex-skipper and spin bowler was denied a US visa.

Lamichhane, 23, was once the poster boy for cricket in Nepal, but was not included in the original squad because he was convicted of raping a young woman in a Kathmandu hotel in 2022.

His eight-year sentence for rape was quashed on appeal this month.

Nepal will play their first two group games in the United States followed by two in the West Indies.

“More than a win or loss, we are preparing for the teams to play good cricket,” Chaudhary added. “In the future, that will help us have big nations come and play on our turf or invite us. That will be the biggest win.”

Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2024

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