Chethan LR, Karnataka’s next white-ball sensation ready to storm into the big boys club

Karnataka cricket‘s rich history of producing some of the best white-ball openers could well have another exciting entrant in talented youngster Chethan LR, a right-handed dasher who grabbed eyeballs with his pyrotechnics in the KSCA Maharaja Trophy T20 tournament 2022.

Partnering with his Bengaluru Blasters skipper Mayank Agarwal at the top of the order, Chethan’s fluent strokeplay laced with some massive hits into the stands was quite the sight to behold in what was only his debut season as part of Karnataka’s biggest T20 competition.

The 22-year-old, who hails from Mysuru, finished the Maharaja Trophy as the tournament’s second-highest run-scorer, accumulating 447 runs from 11 innings at a terrific strike rate of 173.25 – laying down a marker as one of Karnataka’s brightest white-ball prospects.

Chethan, once a ballboy back in 2014-15 as part of the now defunct Karnataka Premier League (KPL), made quite a statement with an impressive sequence of scores. That journey, though, has come with quite a few ups and downs.

In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Chethan LR elaborated on times when he had to bunk exams and had to battle low scores (quite the irony?) in college, a period when he almost quit cricket, the influence of Blasters’ skipper Agarwal and more.

“From where I stay in Mysore, my school was 40km away in KR Nagar. It was very tough for me to go for practice daily, so in 10th standard I left cricket. Until 10th standard, even my parents asked me to be serious about my studies, but I would go off and play matches since they were also not home – my father is in the police and my mother is a teacher.”

“But when I left cricket, my coaches would come and force me to come for practice. That’s when I realised I will go back and play, so I took it up seriously when I was in 12th standard, at the age of 19.”

For those who have keenly followed Chethan’s career graph, it wouldn’t come as a shock that he impressed to such an extent without any previous experience of playing in the tournament.

Having started off as a middle-order batsman who kept wickets to follow the footsteps of his cricketing inspiration, MS Dhoni, Chethan gave up the glovework to focus more on his batting.

Once he got to the U-16 level, at the insistence of his coach Gadadhar, who “saw a spark” in his ability to put bowlers under pressure constantly, Chethan was asked to open the batting – a position which he’s now made his own with commanding performances across levels of cricket in Karnataka.

The Maharaja Trophy opportunity was Chethan’s maiden chance to play in the tournament, but his first taste of franchise-based cricket came back in 2019, when he was a part of the Mysuru Warriors as their ‘catchment area’ player.

However, with an abundance of talent on the Warriors’ roster, Chethan had to watch all the action from the sidelines, often also running out with towels and water bottles to play a supporting cast role in the team environment.

This year, the talented opener was picked as the 6th option by the Blasters in the Maharaja Trophy player draft – highlighting the team’s belief in the youngster and in some sense, time was ripe for Chethan to earn a proper chance to project his talent to cricket fanatics.

“Getting the opportunity to play was the best feeling. I was a part of the Mysore squad but I didn’t get a match, the Maharaja Trophy is now the biggest platform in Karnataka cricket to showcase who we are, I am happy to have got the chance to prove myself.”

Getting picked in the draft was the first step to earning a spot in the XI, but such was the case with Chethan that he initially didn’t believe that the Blasters’ roped in his services for the season.

Sitting in a KSCA dorm with a few other promising young Karnataka talents, Chethan couldn’t watch the proceedings because it wasn’t aired on TV, and he didn’t have a subscription to Fancode either, which was officially broadcasting the draft.

A call from a friend after he was selected didn’t convince him – he thought there are many Chethans in Karnataka, and so this wasn’t him – but when the Blasters’ manager called and informed Chethan officially of his selection, part of his dream was soon to come true.

“Mayank Anna’s message has always been to stay humble and show intent with the bat” – Chethan LR on Agarwal’s backing as captain

On one hand, only a few days of practice was what Chethan had in front of him before the season opener, where he was going to stride out to bat in a colourful jersey in front of very familiar faces at the Mysuru stadium.

On the other, he was going to partner one of India’s most indefatigable openers, Mayank Agarwal, an opportunity that very few youngsters could dream of in their debut match.

In the Bengaluru Blasters’ first practice session within 24 hours after the draft, Chethan padded up and middle many a the ball in the nets, but it took a little longer after the session to share his first few minutes with new skipper Agarwal.

Anna didn’t bat in the nets with me on the first day, but after the session I got to speak with him. His message from the first day till the final was to stay humble and show intent with the bat. Even while batting out in the middle, he was always guiding me in a way that I felt very confident to bat in free manner.”

Buttlerflies in the stomach ahead of the season opener, arguably Chethan’s biggest match of his fledging career, were always going to be present. Even then, the youngster had another mini challenge to overcome.

Ever since his U-10 days, there was never a question mark over his talent, even up until he took guard for his first ball of the Maharaja Trophy. However, for the thousands who thronged the stadium in Mysuru, Chethan was the cynosure of all eyes, for they knew what he was capable of, and it was time to see if he could deliver on the biggest stage of them all. At least so far.

“I know a lot of them local fans in Mysuru, and for me it was more of the pressure to deliver for them. They’ve seen me play and my constant urge of wanting to play at the highest level, so I needed to do well and prove to them that there is talent in me.”

“Even though I have done well in division matches, they don’t follow local cricket that happens in Karnataka, for them it is all about coming on TV and my name coming in the newspapers. It was a good feeling to do well in front of them and also show Karnataka cricket fans that I am capable of delivering with the bat.”

For those in the know, Chethan’s superb showing stems from a mountain of runs in divisional matches and a terrific run of form for the Cambridge Cricket Club during the local KSCA Kasturirangan T20 tournament – where he topped the run charts – that was held before the Maharaja Trophy draft.

Named as among the 15 Karnataka squad members taking part in the Chhattisgarh T20 Cup in Raipur from September 15th, Chethan has already done enough to make selectors take notice of his brimming talent.

Now that Chethan’s entered the frame of selection for the Karnataka men’s senior team, watch out for the youngster’s next big target – featuring in the senior team XI and putting on a show which could fuel his dream of entering the big boys club – the Indian cricket team and the IPL!

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