New face's world of experience

Otago Sparks new player Shebani Bhaskar. Photo by Linda Roberston.
Otago Sparks new player Shebani Bhaskar. Photo by Linda Roberston.
Shebani Bhaskar really is an all-rounder.

She is a wicketkeeper batsman who bowls medium pace or spin, depending on the conditions.

Off the pitch, the 22-year-old is a cosmopolitan mix. She was born in the United States but home is in Chennai, India. However, she has lived in Bangladesh, Germany and now New Zealand. She has also recently returned from Sydney, where she spent a month preparing for the domestic season here.

When she is not batting, bowling or keeping wickets, she is working towards a master's degree in communication.

Bhaskar first got the idea to come to New Zealand seven years ago. A family friend, former Otago assistant coach Mohit Reo, planted the seed.

''I was 15 at the time and my parents weren't too eager to send me all alone, so I reached out to him early this year and he put me in touch with Mark Bracewell.''

Bracewell is the talent identification coach at Otago Cricket and invited Bhaskar to Dunedin for a trial of sorts.

She arrived in April, impressed and was invited back. Sparks coach Warren Lees has named Bhaskar in his side for the opening round of games against Central Districts beginning on November 25.

''It is a great opportunity to be able to play with Suzie Bates, Leigh Kasperek and Katey Martin and all the Otago girls,'' she said.

''They are international names and legends. It is an exciting opportunity and something I look forward to.''

Bhaskar can contribute in many ways but she considers herself a batsman first. She can bat anywhere in the top six and likes to give the ball smack.

''I would say I'm aggressive and more of a boundary hitter. I'm not as tall or built as many of the New Zealand cricketers but I rely a lot on timing.''

She has played domestic cricket in India and was selected for the state team when she was just 13. As a 17-year-old she made one of the five zone teams and her side won the championship in 2011. That same year, she played for United States in the World Cup qualifiers.

''I was the leading run-scorer for the United States in that tournament and was in the top 20 run-scorers for the tournament.''

She has also played for a United States and Canadian combined team. That team toured England for two weeks and played some county sides.

While Bhaskar is worldly in terms of her cricket experience, she is not sure what to expect from the New Zealand competition.

''I need to see where I stand.

There is always pressure but I feel pressure is good. I seem to perform better under pressure.''

It is very much a learning curve for her and if all goes well she would like to return and forge a career here, and potentially play for the White Ferns. But more immediately, it is about settling in and becoming familiar with the conditions.

•There was no play on day three of Otago's Plunket Shield match with Canterbury at Queen's Park in Invercargill yesterday. Canterbury posted 446 for six declared in its first innings. Otago is yet to bat.

•Discarded test opener Martin Guptill was the dominant figure when Auckland's match against Northern Districts resumed in Mt Maunganui yesterday.

He smashed 151 off just 138 balls, with four sixes and 20 boundaries.

Auckland was all out for 348 in reply to Northern's first innings total of 417 for seven declared.

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