Deepti Sharma signs up with Western Storm for maiden KSL stint

Deepti Sharma takes a catch during a training session Annesha Ghosh/ESPNcricinfo

Deepti Sharma has become the latest Indian to join the Kia Super League, signing up for the upcoming season with Western Storm, who had Smriti Mandhana in their ranks last season.

ESPNcricinfo understands that Lancashire Thunder, who had recruited India T20I captain Harmanpreet Kaur last season, had also expressed interest in 21-year-old allrounder Deepti about ten days after Storm had approached her. Deepti, however, chose the latter after speaking with Storm head coach Trevor Griffin, with Mandhana also playing a part in her decision.

"I had a chat with Trevor Griffin via WhatsApp, and given Smriti had played there last year - that's also a bit of an assurance, for I know there's someone I already know and have played with, who knows the group, the coach and the culture," Deepti, who will be the fourth Indian to feature in the tournament, told ESPNcricinfo. "I am excited and feeling positive because outside of just the cricket, it's a big step-up for me because I will be travelling abroad without the Indian team for the first time."

As such, Mandhana, last year's player of the tournament, hasn't yet renewed her contract with Storm, or inked a deal for any other team, officially.

Deepti will join 18-year-old Jemimah Rodrigues, Yorkshire Diamonds' only Indian recruit this season, and will be available for the entire duration of the T20 tournament's fourth edition, which will run from August 6 to September 4.

A regular middle-order batsman and specialist offspinner in the Indian team, Deepti's KSL debut will mark her return to the UK, where she had last played in July 2017 during India's breakout 2017 World Cup campaign. A teenager at the time, she emerged as India's leading wicket-taker in the tournament and was one of their standout performers with the bat too.

"I am especially looking forward to playing alongside [Anya] Shrubsole and [Heather] Knight, who, of course, are World Cup winners," Deepti said. "The last time I played in England, they were my opponents, and part of the side we lost the final to. So, it's good to have them as team-mates this time around, and I'd love to observe their training methods and work ethic closely."

Storm recently announced the re-signing of the England quartet of Knight, Shrubsole, Fran Wilson and Freya Davies, and New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Rachel Priest, who have all been part of the franchise since the inaugural season, held in 2016.