‘There is always scope to improve'

“I don't think any feeling and experience can be better than playing against India. Oh! That should be a great experience. I am really looking for that great opportunity,” says Indian-born Kiwi leg-spinner, Tarun Sai Nethula, in an exclusive chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

He grew up watching the great V. V. S. Laxman at the St. John's Coaching Foundation in Secunderabad (Andhra Pradesh). But little did Tarun Sai Nethula and his parents realise then that destiny would take him to another part of the world — New Zealand — where he would make a mark for himself in world cricket.

When Tarun, 28, got the chance to play for New Zealand in the two one-dayers (after a disappointing first game, he bowled reasonably well for figures of 10-1-42-2) against Zimbabwe, it was a “dream come true” for him.

“Honestly, when my family shifted base from Hyderabad to New Zealand when I was just 12, I just thought of playing the game for sheer passion,” recalls Tarun in an exclusive chat with Sportstar from New Zealand.

Tarun was born in Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh when his mother (Dr. Pramila), a doctor by profession, was on deputation but they were residents of Malkajgiri locality in the State capital.

“It was a great feeling to watch Laxman bat in the nets at St. John's. And my admiration for his game was instantaneous. Along with Virender Sehwag, he is my favourite cricketer,” says the Indian-born Kiwi international.

“Definitely, it was not an easy road to the New Zealand national team. There were the usual hurdles, which, as a cricketer, I had to face and even my family had to encounter them. But again, we took everything in life and in cricket as a challenge and were only aiming far beyond,” says the former student of St. Andrews School in Secunderabad. “Again, getting there is easier than cementing a place in the New Zealand team. But I am determined to make optimum use of the chances I get,” he insists.

Interestingly, Tarun played in the under-13 grade for Hyderabad and so had a real feel of competitive cricket even at a young age.

“Cricket is so different here in New Zealand unlike say in Hyderabad or in India in general. You do get the opportunities but you have to be on your toes always, keep performing well,” he adds.

“It was a great feeling to play for New Zealand and my joy knew no bounds. Initially I was expecting to be in with a chance to play Test cricket first,” says Tarun.

Tarun overcame a huge personal tragedy, the death of his mother, and fought against adversity thanks to the unstinted support of his father Sainath Nethula. He is now keen to look far beyond the Zimbabwe one-day series which the Kiwis had won comprehensively.

“There are big tours lined up in West Indies, South Africa and India. There is no way I can relax. For, there is still a long way to go,” feels the leg-spinner. “Honestly, I don't think that my entry into the New Zealand team has come at a late age. There is plenty to give back,” says a confident Tarun.

“Definitely, there were moments when I just thought it was very difficult to keep playing. I had to give one serious push. And this is where I should thank the Central Districts management and the Auckland officials for their support. The last two years have been really crucial and decisive,” he points out.

“I played first-class cricket for Auckland for two years before moving over to Central Districts. That was the turning point of my career. Somehow, there is a sea-change in everything — be it attitude, the zeal and in terms of aiming big too,” says Tarun.

On his bowling, the Kiwi leg-spinner believes that there is always scope to improve. “There cannot be an end to the learning process. I keep watching some of the best exponents of leg-spin and I am really determined to keep improving,” Tarun remarks.

What is the dream he is chasing now? “I don't think any feeling and experience can be better than playing against India (when the New Zealanders are expected to tour this winter). Oh! That should be a great experience. I am really looking for that great opportunity,” Tarun signs off.