Michael Clarke claims to have done nothing but “smile” every time he saw Sandeep Lamichhane bowl but Nepal’s first IPL-contracted cricketer says he owes his growth to the former Australian captain.

Clarke has been like a mentor to the 17-year-old leg-spinner who became the first Nepali player to be bought by an Indian Premier League franchise at last week’s auctions. The leg-spinner was brought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 20 lakh.

“Michael Clarke has had the biggest influence on me as a cricketer. From the time, he saw me bowling at the Hong Kong Sixes, he kept an eye on me. He is a kind man, a humble soul, who has helped me grow as a cricketer and a person,” Lamichhane told PTI during from Dubai.

Clarke, on his part, has been modest about the “influence” that Lamichhane spoke about.

Even before IPL players’ auction, Lamichhane had been in touch with Clarke, calling the interactions therapeutic to an extent.

“Speaking to him helped me relax. It was a lifetime experience to have played under him for Western Suburbs Cricket Club in Sydney grade league. That has been a huge gain for a young player like me,” he said.

Talking about his strengths, he said that leg-break is his stock delivery but the 17-year-old has become more confident about executing the googly as well.

“I always had a good leg-break but I have now developed an effective googly working hard with my Nepal national team coach Raju Khadka,” the teenager said.

“So when Delhi Daredevils summoned me for trials I was fully confident that their coaches would be impressed with my skills. And in any case if you don’t have self-confidence, you can’t play the next level that is IPL,” he added.

Lamichhane also thanked the Cricket Association of Nepal for backing him, despite not being a country known for its cricket history.

“Yes, it’s true that we only have one proper cricket stadium in Nepal but we have had the determination. I owe it to Nepal cricket as playing for my country got me the prominence. If I have got a contract with Delhi Daredevils, it is because of my performances for the national team,” Lamichhane said.

The teen looks up to Australian spinner Shane Warne and batting great Sachin Tendulkar. “As a child, the two people whom I looked up to were Sachin Tendulkar and Shane Warne. For me, they are the two greatest cricketers. I would never miss an opportunity to watch whenever they played. I would watch their recordings,” Lamichhane added.

Lamichhane has been flooded with messages is just soaking in the appreciation that’s coming his way.

“I have got congratulatory messages from Nepal ministers, general people. My father says that IPL is my opportunity to make my country proud. I would need to grab it with both hands,” he concluded.

With inputs from PTI