Andhra-born leg spinner defies odds to make it big in Kiwi domestic cricket

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Auckland, Mar.29 (ANI): Auckland's wicket-taking rookie Tarun Nethula, a former resident of Andhra Pradesh in India, has taken quite a journey to enter next week's State Championship cricket final against Central Districts.

This 25-year-old leg spinner has copped more than a few blows both on and off the field, reports the Sunday Star Times

He has become one of the leading wicket-takers in domestic cricket with 24 scalps from his eight games.

When he was 12, Nethula's family decided a better life awaited them in New Zealand and they moved to Auckland from Andhra Pradesh.

At 13, Nethula had to overcome the death of his mother, who took her own life, something Nethula couldn't understand at the time and still struggles to explain.

"It was my mum's decision to come here, but sadly only seven months after moving here she committed suicide in January 1997. I don't know why, I was only 13, maybe she was suffering depression," Nethula says.

What followed was another year back in India with his grandparents after his father decided that would be the best way for the teenager to cope with the loss of his mother.

Nethula has a real equanimity about the turbulent nature of his upbringing.

"It's just life isn't it," he offers, "you can't be handed it on a platter. I've got a great dad. He has helped smooth things out, good to bad, bad to good. Since my mother died, it's just been me and my dad. He played a bit of cricket and he's my biggest fan. He's been there through thick and thin and in some ways he's living his dream through me," Nethula added.

Nethula says he was "nurtured" by coaches in Auckland to become the leg spin bowler he has in New Zealand first class cricket.

"Leg spin is a difficult art ... having been around a few good coaches, they all talk about a leg spinner needing to be nurtured when he's coming up because you're bound to have your bad spells where you're going to be hit and it's how your support staff look after you," Nethula says.

"The perfect example in my case was early in the season when James Franklin took to me on his way to a double hundred. I went for about five runs an over but [Auckland captain] Richard Jones and [coach] Mark O'Donnell kept persevering with me. They thought 'he's going to have to bowl himself out of this' and looking back on it now four months later, I'm OK about being hit for a few boundaries because I know I've got the backing of the coach and captain."

Just making it to the first-class arena in New Zealand as a leg spinner is something of an achievement. And since Jack Alabaster left test cricket in 1972 with 49 wickets, only Greg Loveridge and Brooke Walker have graced the New Zealand test side.

Nethula's breakthrough came after he decided to quit his job at Work and Income to play fulltime in England.

"I decided to give it one more a good crack, to go to England in April, play cricket, get myself up to speed, and hopefully come back and go somewhere."

Where he went was Queensland with an Auckland emerging players team where the coach was former Zimbabwe test player and leg spin exponent Paul Strang, whom he described as being "phenomenal for me".

Strang's word to then Auckland coach O'Donnell got Nethula his breakthrough first class debut in which he took 3-83 as Auckland beat Canterbury by 73 runs.

His season has been one of steady, if costly, wicket-taking with his 24 wickets (second only to Hamish Bennett's 26) coming at an average of 35 apiece.

"We've noticed him," says selector Glenn Turner. "We notice any spinners coming through because of the dearth of them and he's done quite nicely this season."

For Nethula, however, national honours are quite rightly a long way off. (ANI)

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