SINGAPORE – National cricketer Janak Prakash remembers the happiness he felt seeing his name on the national squad for the first time. It was in an email with a list of players selected to travel to Malaysia for the Stan Nagaiah Trophy in 2015.
He also remembers what it was like receiving his first jersey in national colours with his number 16 on it – for his birthday, Aug 16.
He recounted to The Straits Times: “It felt really amazing. It was like a weight off my shoulders because I had been working for that for so long but at the same time, that’s what I needed to get started playing and winning for Singapore.”
Last week, he got to experience that feeling again when he was offered the chance to play in Nepal’s Everest Premier League (EPL) in what will be his first time playing overseas.
The 21-year-old, the first Singaporean cricketer to play in an overseas franchise league, joins the Kathmandu Kings XI, one of six teams for the Sept 25-Oct 9 season.
He said: “I was surprised (the offer came) but at the same time, I’ve been working hard for something like this and I hope it goes well. It feels weird that it hasn’t happened before because there’s lots of talent in Singapore.
“The thing with franchise tournaments is there’ll be big international players who have lots of experience so I’m hoping to learn from them.”
The EPL, started in 2016, is a franchise Twenty20 league and also one of the biggest tournaments outside Test-playing nations such as India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Singapore Cricket Association chief executive Saad Khan Janjua had reached out to a representative from the EPL who put him in touch with a few franchise owners. He then sent statistics and video footage of a few national players and Kathmandu Kings XI offered Janak a spot on their team this season.
He credited the SCA’s youth development programme, which Janak has been a part of since he was nine, and said “this is just the beginning”.
Saad added: “We’re reaching a point where we can offer our national players to franchise teams. When he comes back, he will bring a different kind of experience and exposure and he can contribute better to our national team.
“He will be a role model and local hero for upcoming youths.”
SCA president Mahmood Gaznavi added: “Janak’s journey will spur other local cricketers who will realise that they can get the break to venture into the other leagues if they work hard and make a mark.”
Janak was thrilled to work with new teammate and former Pakistan national captain Shahid Afridi. He said: “He’s got this fearless style of playing cricket. When he comes to bat, he can almost instantly put pressure on the opponents and he’s just got such great confidence in his ability.”
The second-year University of Melbourne student is also looking forward to some big games and big crowds. The 2018 EPL final drew about 20,000 spectators at the TU International Cricket Ground in Kathmandu, where the 2021 edition will be played.
Fans are expected but ticketing information has not been released.
Nepal’s Covid-19 case numbers have been decreasing with a daily average of 1,044 new infections, according to Reuters, and Janak said he was not unduly concerned as he will be in a bubble with the other players and will only be out of his hotel room for training and matches.
To prepare for his stint, he has been training thrice a week with the national team along with two gym sessions.
He said: “The main thing for me is to focus on my individual processes. If you stick to your basics, you can succeed no matter who you’re playing against. Instead of focusing on the result, I pick a spot to pitch the ball to and focus on it while making sure my processes are right.
“At the end of the day, I’m just looking to contribute to my team. If I do get a chance to play, hopefully I end up making some wickets and scoring some runs and helping the team win.”
He added: “When it was officially announced and I shared the post (on social media), my friends who are not familiar with cricket were asking me about it and trying to understand the scale of the tournament.
“I’m sure as the tournament starts and when SCA posts more about it, people will start to understand and hopefully they can learn about the sport.”
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