Nethula hopes for debut in home state
Like any cricket-mad boy growing up in the Andhra Pradesh state in India, Tarun Nethula's heroes were the men who played in Hyderabad's Ranji Trophy side.
Regional pride and identity are integral parts of Indian cricket and Nethula dreamt of one day emulating the deeds of local stars like VVS Laxman.
But having just made Hyderabad's under-13 side, Nethula thought he had said goodbye to all that when his father, Sainath, and his late mother, Prameela, decided to emigrate to New Zealand. Sixteen years later, he hopes to do something that seemed unimaginable back then.
Selected in the Black Caps squad of 15, which departs for a two-test tour of India today, the legspinner is in line to make his test debut at Hyderabad's Ranjiv Gandhi International Stadium next Thursday, against a home team that includes Laxman.
"It would be a bit of a fairytale if I do get to play in Hyderabad. It's a big thing and quite a proud moment and a lot of my family still reside there," said Nethula, who was born just out of Hyderabad in Kurnool.
Not used in New Zealand's two test losses against the West Indies, Nethula's chances of playing have been enhanced by the injury-enforced absence of Daniel Vettori.
It would be thrill enough for the 28-year-old Central Districts leggie to make a test debut, let alone in his home state. The only sadness is that his father won't be there.
"Unfortunately my father and my girlfriend both work at schools, so they won't be able to get time off," Nethula said.
"But his father will be there, so hopefully he can make the trip. Many of my dad's siblings are still there as well so I'm hoping that, if I do get a game, we'll have a bit of home crowd support for the Black Caps."
Even so, India is a heck of a place for any touring spinner to play. Never mind one who might be appearing in their first test match.
"Everyone seems to speak of it as being the ultimate challenge but playing international cricket is a challenge regardless of who you're playing against," he said.
"So it's all a learning curve and if you're going to play test cricket, why not take on the best players of spin up front?"
So it's with excitement, rather than trepidation, that Nethula is eyeing the prospect.
"There are a lot of people where I was born that would give an arm or a leg to play international cricket - and a lot more - so it's a great opportunity."
Nethula was expensive in his two one-day international and one first-class appearance in the West Indies, but he said he learnt a lot from the experience.
"They're not the biggest sweepers and when you compare them to the Indian and sub-continental players, who like to sweep and look to use their feet, these [West Indian] boys just stood there and tried to launch it down the ground as soon as you got a touch full.
"For me, it will be crucial [in India] to keep it simple and stay in a good area and then ask the batsmen to do the bulk of the work."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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