Cricket: Blaze spinner Xara Jetly strikes a chord

Wellington Blaze bowler Xara Jetly has a bigger fan base in India than in New Zealand, but that’s starting to change as she’s making waves in the domestic sphere.

Wellington Blaze’s Xara Jetly looks up at the ball.
Photo: Dave Lintott Photography

Jetly cast the most economic figures in the history of women’s domestic competition two weekends ago when she took four wickets for one run in three overs to sack the Northern Brave for just 46 runs.

Jetly’s teammates Jess Kerr and Leigh Kasperek have the most wickets this season, with 17, but Jetly is not far behind with 13 and an economy of 4.78, off her right arm off-spin.

Her performances this summer have delighted her social media followers in India after a photo she posted went viral in the cricket-crazed country.

De Blaze will face the Otago Sparks in the Super Smash T20 final in Hamilton tomorrow, after not dropping a game all season.

The 20-year-old was also a ball of energy in the field for the Blaze, with six catches in the competition.

It was actually her fielding that saw her first break into the Blaze as a 16-year-old. She entered the Blaze as a specialist outfielder and was on the cusp of becoming one of the top domestic female outfielders in New Zealand.

Wellington Blaze Xara Jetly.

Jetly has over 19,000 followers on Instagram
Photo: PHOTO SPORT

“It was very unusual to come in as a specialist outfield player. I actually didn’t think it was a role that existed, but I think it really is a squad,” said Jetly.

“It was very discouraging as a 16 year old so I felt there was a lot of pressure but was definitely happy to be accepted and to be able to train and I was able to bowl a few overs too.”

Aside from having a safe pair of hands, what is it about Jetly that makes her strong in the field department?

“I’d say I’m pretty fast. I also just really enjoy fielding, so I literally go there hoping with the intention of always catching a ball or always running.

“I really enjoy running, it’s something I do in my spare time and a lot of speed work, including around my field work.”

Jetly comes from a sporty family and was more of a netballer and soccer player when she was younger.

Wellington Blaze young gun Xara Jetly.

In the fold, Wellington Blaze player Xara Jetly.
Photo: Photosport Ltd 2021 www.photosport.nz

She has two younger brothers and a younger sister and started playing a bit of cricket with her brother’s team at the age of 11.

Then she started playing indoor cricket and was 13 when she was spotted by Robbie Kerr, the father of her Blaze teammates Amelia and Jess Kerr.

He saw her potential and placed her on Wellington’s under-15 wing team. From then on, she trained, trained, and trained even more, and that’s where she found her love for the game.

Jetly’s bowling is as strong as her fielding today and she is mostly used in the middle overs for the Blaze.

She came in a star-studded team. She is surrounded by seven White Ferns, including three top-class bowlers in the Kerr sisters and Kasperek.

The Victoria University student said adding more variation in pace had improved her bowling in recent years.

She also developed a noticeable little jump in her run last year after her coach suggested she pick up some momentum in her run.

“I thought why not … but it doesn’t do anything, it’s just a dance move. It’s a routine now, I have to do it,” she laughs.

She also works hard on her percussion and her goal is to become an all-rounder one day.

Jetly is part of a band of young up and coming players in the Blaze.

They call themselves the embers – Georgia Plimmer, Tash Codyre, Kate Chandler and Jetly.

At 20 years old, Jetly knows she is in an exciting phase of her career.

“I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t even make it to 11th this season.

“But to make it in a great environment and be surrounded by great people, hopefully it will only increase my skills and hopefully be able to make the White Ferns in the future.”

Going Viral on the Subcontinent

Jetly has over 19,000 followers on Instagram, most of which came after she posted a photo that went viral in India in December.

It didn’t really stand out because it was so different from other photos she’s posted, but for some reason it struck a chord.

“It was a photo where I pointed at the camera with a very excited expression.

“I think all of India love their cricket and I was in my cricket outfit representing the Blaze clearly the best of the table and also my last name is Jetly.

“I’m also half Indian, which may also be the reason why I have a very high following.”

Jetly’s father was born in New Delhi and her dream is to travel to India once the Covid restrictions finally go away.

“I looked back an hour later and I already had 20,000 likes and I thought ‘this isn’t right’ and I checked my followers and within a week I had managed to get about 15,000 followers.

“And that just got me a little excited because this is a dream of mine, so yeah, it’s really cool.”

Xara Jetly successfully appeals for a wicket.  Northern Brave v Wellington Blaze.  Cobham Oval, Whangarei.  January 16, 2022.

Xara Jetly successfully appeals for a wicket against Northern Brave, Cobham Oval, Whangarei, Jan 16, 2022.
Photo: © Copyright Andrew Cornaga 2022 / www.photosport.nz / Photosport Ltd

In her teens, Jetly decided she wanted to become a social media influencer one day. Once she got into the Blaze, she started posting stuff about the team and started doing some photo shoots for fun.

Her posts are attracting a lot of response from cricket fans in India, but she will no doubt gain more following in New Zealand with performances like the one she produced two weeks ago.

“I’m hopeful that my social media will be almost an insightful way for the public to see me as a cricketer and just a normal human being.

“The fact that I’m also studying and working, I’m just trying to be as relatable as I can be and hopefully I’ll follow that with good performances in the Blaze.”

Game changer Xara Jetly.  Northern Brave v Wellington Blaze.  Dream 11 Super Smash Twenty20 women's cricket match at Cobham Oval, Whangarei.  Sunday, January 16, 2022.

Jetly at the Super Smash match at Cobham Oval, Whangarei, January 16, 2022.
Photo: © Copyright Andrew Cornaga 2022 / www.photosport.nz / Photosport Ltd

What happens is that Jetly tries not to take herself too seriously.

“It’s very important that we don’t get too serious, because life isn’t always serious.

“I mean, sometimes we have to make really hard decisions, but the most important thing is that we as humans are able to let go and have a little fun.

“We’re going to make mistakes and I think the best thing we can do is just laugh about it and move on.

“Hopefully through my social media and also when I talk in interviews I can really show people a little bit of my personality and hopefully they can really look up to that and just think, no, the game isn’t serious, life isn’t so seriously, let’s just laugh.”

Jetly has also shared posts about past mental health battles with anxiety and depression and believes it’s important not to hold things back.

“Especially when I was about 13 and 14, I kept all my bad emotions to myself and I really encourage people to be able to talk to others.

“Really find one or two loyal friends and can communicate as much as possible. I think that’s the best medicine and don’t be afraid to show who you are.”

Last year, the Blaze, who were three-time defending champions, were stunned in the final by the Canterbury Magicians.

Jetly said it was an important lesson.

“We constantly look back on that and think what was good and what was bad.

“I think what we’ve brought this season is fantastic and hopefully we can really continue that momentum and take it to the grand final and take it home.”

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