Younger cricket fans might recognise Aakash Chopra as a modern-day student of the Navjot Singh Sidhu School of commentary, but that certainly isn’t the case with those of us who’ve seen him play. One of his performances against a formidable Australian bowling attack has resurfaced in a recent viral video, and is prompting questions about […]
Younger cricket fans might recognise Aakash Chopra as a modern-day student of the Navjot Singh Sidhu School of commentary, but that certainly isn’t the case with those of us who’ve seen him play. One of his performances against a formidable Australian bowling attack has resurfaced in a recent viral video, and is prompting questions about being India’s worst ever batsman.
An old highlight shared by the popular Youtube channel, Robelinda2, from the 2004 India v Australia Test series, brought back one of Chopra’s more forgettable innings.
Batting at one off 14 deliveries, in India’s pursuit of 543 in the fourth innings of the third Test in Nagpur, Chopra took a blow on the body on the fourth delivery of a Jason Gillespie over. The opener was clearly rattled, before his middle stump was uprooted off the very next ball.
The commentators repeatedly raised questions over his technique. A low backlift eventually proved to be Chopra’s undoing against Gillespie’s consistent 140kph-plus pace.
Chopra became the butt of internet jokes as this video started getting more attention.
Some tagged his attempts at playing cricket as a means to only get one foot into the door as a commentator. Some others compared him to the single friend who never stops short of offering relationship advice. One of the more funny ones claimed that his career actually kicked off after retirement.
But how does his cricketing career actually compare to these gags?
Chopra’s First Class career began in the 1997/98 season of India’s domestic cricket. He quickly established himself as Delhi’s top-order mainstay, mounting lengthy, vigils at the crease and developing a reputation for seeing off the shine of the new ball, sometimes even the second new ball (aka super slow but reliable batsman).
He even scored a First Class triple century.
His temperament earned him a delayed call-up to India’s Test side for the two-match home series against New Zealand. Scores of 42, 31, 60 and 52 were enough to retain his place as an opener alongside the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag.
Chopra played all four Test matches on India’s famous tour to Australia in 2003/04, which they drew 1-1. Although his highest score in the series was only 48, he provided a foil to Sehwag’s aggressive antics.
But this style of play didn’t prove sustainable as he managed to enter double digits only once in the next seven innings. Chopra played his last Test in October 2004, and never featured for the national team again.
But he continued to play domestic cricket till late 2012. The 2007-8 season was prosperous for Chopra: 783 runs in Delhi’s title-winning Ranji Trophy campaign; 332 runs at a whopping 332.00, with three hundreds at a strike-rate above 100, in the one-day version; 310 runs in the Duleep Trophy, helping North to victory, according to ESPNCricinfo.
Chopra signed for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League in2008, but could only manage a grand total of 53 runs across two seasons, at a strike rate below 75. He scored one fifty for the Rajasthan Royals in the years to come, but the lesser said the better.
The highlight of Chopra’s international career remains to be his exploits as a short-leg fielder. His catching often drew comparisons with the legendary Eknath Solkar, but Chopra’s career spanned only 10 Test matches unfortunately. Eventually, he retired with more than 10,000 First Class runs and three Ranji Trophy titles.
What do you make of his career as a cricketer and also as a commentator? Let us know in the comments.
Image source: Instagram/cricketaakash