10 Test matches, 437 runs, two half-centuries, and an average of 23. Looking at this numbers you will get the feeling that we are talking about yet another unfulfilled career and you are right. The said numbers belong to former Indian opener and Test cricketer Aakash Chopra. Chopra, like many players, had the privilege and distinction of playing for India for a brief period of time and sadly his career couldn’t take off due to variety of reasons.
India as a nation is very demanding and especially when it comes to cricket it is very fierce and cut throat. Chopra plied his trade for Delhi Ranji side and after scoring truckloads of runs in domestic cricket was finally awarded India cap against New Zealand in 2003 at Ahmedabad in 2003. To Chopra’s advantage, he was opening the batting with fellow Delhi lad Virender Sehwag, who was also cementing his place in the Indian side.
Chopra initially played within himself and was a perfect foil for destructive and trailblazing Sehwag. The duo shared some memorable stands during India’s tour of Australia in 2003-04 and Chopra was steadily making a mark in international cricket. But, his critics were not happy with his dour and ultra-defensive batting and were saying that he is not a stroke player and was not positive enough to take the game forward and his career strike rate was 34.60. Chopra despite being criticised continued doing his job but was not scoring hundreds like his mate Sehwag.
After the initial honeymoon period came some tough moments and during India’s historic visit to Pakistan in 2004, Chopra somehow got a raw deal and lost his place in the side. His slide began from that period and couldn’t really recover after that and at the age of 27 played his last Test against Australia at Nagpur. The match was remembered for all the wrong reasons (Sourav Ganguly sitting out, Australia’s first Test series win in India since 1969) and that was it for this Delhi’s cricketer.
No one from the management or selection committee bothered to tell Chopra what was he doing wrong and was left high and dry by the BCCI. Chopra knew that he had to go back to first-class cricket to get his place back and he performed admirably for Delhi and then Rajasthan in the Ranji Trophy but with players like Wasim Jaffer and Gautam Gambhir in the fray, he never got another chance to play for India.
Ask any cricketer about not representing your country and they will tell you that it’s like a death sentence and it’s very depressing and heart breaking. Chopra knew that his India days were behind him and started concentrating on other facets of life and started writing books on cricket. As of now, he has written four books on cricket and it has received great appreciation. Indian cricketers, after retirement, as a default option try their hand at commentary and unfortunately many past players have been found wanting at commentating and analysing the game.
Chopra surprisingly has turned out to be a magnificent commentator and analyst and when you listen to him, you feel that he is totally making sense and has great knowledge about the game of cricket and history (Why he doesn’t commentate in English is beyond me). Currently, Chopra is a highly rated cricket analyst (Twitter following of more than 2.4 million people) and comes across as a well-balanced thinker rather than a glorified cheerleader of Indian cricket.
Not everyone can become Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli and there is no point crying and becoming resentful about life. Aakash Chopra has proved that while he couldn’t become the next big thing or score 10,000 runs or play 100 Test matches, but he has channelised his energies in the right direction and this underrated and unglamorous cricketer is now rightfully being called as the voice of Indian cricket, a tag which once belonged to Harsha Bhogle.