National cricket team coach Pubudu Dassanayake was in awe of Lokesh Bam when he smashed a whirlwind 18-ball 66 against Tribhuvan Army Club in the recent Prime Minister Cup Twenty20 Nationals.
On his way to smacking nine sixes in one of the rarest innings in domestic cricket, six came of Jitendra Mukhiya, the most consistent medium pacer of the tournament. To the delight of a few hundreds, Lokesh was hitting sixes that easily crossed the boundary rope by a distance.
He had come into that match having already slammed a 21-ball 50 against Bagmati Province in one of the league games. He continued that form in the final as well hitting a 15-ball 27 with one of his sixes against Aarif Sheikh coming off a pre-mediated scoop that sailed over Nepal Police Club wicketkeeper Dilip Nath.
“We were watching him closely at the end of the Nationals. We were not sure what he was going to do,” said Dassanayake of Lokesh who was actually a flop in the preceding U-19 Nationals and failed to make it to the squad for the ACC U-19 Asia Cup.
“Lokesh actually impressed us. He was hitting the ball a long way and he was not slogging. He has very good technique. He is the one guy in the batting order who has the capability to hit any kind of ball,” the coach added.
As the current opening pair of Aasif Sheikh and Kushal Bhurtel did wonders during April’s Twenty20 Tri-Nation Series last year against the Netherlands and Malaysia, Lokesh seems to be a perfect fit according to the team dynamics.
With Gyanendra Malla, Dipendra Singh Airee, Aarif Sheikh or Sharad Vesawkar able to negotiate the middle order, Lokesh could play role of a finisher in Dassanayake’s playing XI.
And if Kushal or Aasif manage to bat long providing desired starts, Lokesh can get promotion up the order to fire. “I think he is the guy we wanted. He is the best hitter we have and the best we have seen so far in Nepali cricket,” Dassanayake said.
Lokesh was already a favourite in his hometown when he began as an age group cricketer. He shot to fame when he smashed some quality bowlers of eventual champions Chitwan Rhinos for big sixes during the Pokhara Premier League while playing for Biratnagar Kings.
Its only the lack of consistency that might worry the Nepali think tank as big performances have not come in clusters from him. But since he is in the national team with a luxury to fire, Lokesh can be the most lethal weapon for Nepal in February’s Twenty20 World Cup Qualifiers in Oman.