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Aakash Chopra, born September 19, 1977, is a former Indian opening batsman who attained far more prominence as a writer and analyst. A resolute batsman, Chopra had tremendous powers of concentration, but was unable to deliver consistently on the big stage. On his 38th birthday, Shiamak Unwalla looks at 10 interesting things to know about possibly India’s best cricketer-turned-writer.

 

1.  Childhood diary

Chopra revealed during the launch of his third book The Insider that his passion for writing began at an early age, when he used to maintain a diary. “As a kid I maintained a diary, basically pointers. That included if I heard the coach giving some tips to the other players, I noted that as well.”

 

2.  First gig at HT

Chopra’s first writing job came when he was associated with Hindustan Times. However, at the time he did not write actively for them and had to visit the office once every few months. Chopra said he felt he was not doing justice to the role.

 

3.  Domestic legend

Though his international numbers are not outstanding, Chopra is a giant in Indian domestic cricket. In 162 First-Class matches — predominantly for Delhi, but later also for Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh — Chopra scored 10,839 runs at 45.35 with 29 centuries and 53 half-centuries. He was also a highly underrated limited-overs batsman, with 2,415 runs in 65 List A games at 44.72.

 

4.  Phenomenal fielder

As good a batsman as Chopra was, it was his mind-numbing reflexes at short leg that stood out. Few fielders in recent memory have shown the immense powers of concentration or the lightening quick reflexes that Chopra showed on a regular basis while fielding at short leg.

 

5.  Dogged opener

Never a flashy batsman, Chopra had immense powers of concentration. Though a Test aggregate of 437 runs in 10 matches at 23 is a disappointing return for someone with his obvious class, what stands out is his strike rate of 34.60. Chopra had the ability to wear down the bowlers and take the shine off the new ball, thereby making life simpler for the following batsmen.

 

6.  Sugar and salt

Though they opened together in only 19 innings, Virender Sehwag and Chopra formed one of India’s most prolific opening partnerships. The duo’s immensely contrasting styles meant that India was able to get off to an excellent start more often than not. The pair scored 897 runs together at 47.21 with four century stands and two fifty-run partnerships with a highest of 164. They were absolutely outstanding on India’s 2003-04 tour of Australia, where they became the most successful Indian opening partnership in an away series.

 

7.  Idolising Athers

As far as idols go, Michael Atherton is perhaps not someone a lot of young players would choose. But then, Chopra was not like most youngsters. Chopra looked up to Atherton, and once travelled to Mohali to meet him while he was on tour. Atherton told Chopra, “The idea of playing the game is to enjoy it.”

 

8.  Unsuccessful IPL stint

Perhaps not a natural T20 player, Chopra was picked for Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) during IPL 2008. He opened in a few innings, but a return of 53 runs from seven matches at just 8.83 meant that he never played again.

 

9. Retirement

After two years since he played his last First-Class match, Chopra announced his retirement from all formats of the game in 2015. “I have always been very proud of my fielding, but I dropped a couple of catches in the slips in what turned out to be my last first-class game. I was the captain of the side and had to take myself off, from that position. That’s when I felt it’s not right, perhaps the time has come. If I am not able to take catches in slips, then perhaps I am a bit of a liability,” Chopra said during the announcement

 

10.  Celebrated writer

Chopra is perhaps best known for being arguably the finest cricketer-turned-writer India has ever produced. He has released three books so far; Out of the Blue: Rajasthan’s road to the Ranji Trophy, Beyond the Blues: A cricket season like no other, and The Insider.

 

11.  Loyal to the fans

Chopra said that despite his past as a cricketer and his current role as a media-person, his loyalty is “with the fans, not cricketers or media.”

 

12. Commentary

Chopra is a regular face in the commentary boxes for India matches, majorly in Hindi. His signature ‘Paaaji (mostly to address Kapil Dev)’ and one-liners never fail to entertain his fans.

 

13. Social media and controversies

One of the most active cricketers on social media, Chopra is known for sharing his humorous tweets and insights for the matches. However, he often lands himself into controversies.

One of the major controversy was created when he once criticised Hashim Amla’s techniques. The South Africa batsman replied with Chopra’s career numbers, but later apologised.

He had stirred some more controversies as he had criticised Rahul Dravid for Delhi Daredevil’s performance in Indian Premier League. He was also bashed by S Sreesanth when he replied one fan saying a player, once alleged to have been involved in spot-fixing should never be given a chance. Sreesanth, on the occasion, called him two-faced.

(Shiamak Unwalla is a proud Whovian and all-round geek who also dabbles in cricket writing as a reporter with CricketCountry. His Twitter handle is @ShiamakUnwalla)