Aakash Chopra

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Former India opener Aakash Chopra is one of the best thinkers and writers on the game. Find out more at www.cricketaakash.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @cricketaakash

Blog Posts by Aakash Chopra

  • Ammunition to beat Australia

    Succeeding in a Test match Down Under is also about choosing the right equipment

    (This is the second of the three-part series that Aakash is writing about his experiences of preparing and playing for India in Australia on the 2003-04 tour. Here's Part 1.)

    Once the groundwork — which included speaking to coaches and senior pros, watching and analysing videos of Australian bowlers, delineating my role and warming up mentally — was laid, I was set to board the flight to Melbourne, via Adelaide.

    Given the extra bounce on Australian wickets, it makes sense to have the bat's sweet spot a couple of inches higher than usual.If the first phase of my research (which I dwelt upon in Part I) on Australia — how to play Australia in their own backyard, and in a contest peddled as the ‘mother of all battles’ — was exhaustive to say the least, the second phase was more hands-on.
     
    TOUCH-UPS

    A quick call to the cricket equipment manufacturer I was signed up with was made.

    Firstly, I requested for lighter bats, since I was told that pitches in Australia were fast and bouncy, which left very little time to react. Hence, the lighter the bat, the easier it would be to adjust. I also ordered an elbow guard and an

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  • Preparing for Australia 101

    India's success in the 2003-4 tour was all about preparation, mental toughness and strong technique

    Much emphasis has been laid on the process of preparation lately — especially after the England debacle. What is preparation? How does one prepare? These questions popped up many times during post-result analysis. While I believe preparation to be a personal prerogative, some key aspects ought to be included in the larger blueprint.

    Your writer in action in a tour game against Australia A in December 2003. (AFP Photo)With India’s tour to Australia only a fortnight away, it has become imperative to answer these questions. In a three-part series, I will share with you the finer points of my preparation and the experience of the 2003-04 tour. The attempt is to provide you, the reader, with the essential perspective and insight necessary to view the game better.

    In August 2003, when I had recently recuperated from a knee surgery, I got a call from Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra enquiring the status of my fitness. John Wright had asked them to make that call and also prepare me to be called for the India camp slated to start soon.

    At the camp in Bangalore, my physical Read More »from Preparing for Australia 101

  • The trinity's last stand

    This may be the last overseas tour together for Sachin, Laxman and Dravid. Are there worthy replacements in sight?

    Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman.Amidst the fuss around the tour of Australia — being touted as the battle royale, a fight for ascendancy and honour, a reiteration of our grit, and all the rest — we’re missing a far more intriguing point.

    This will perhaps be the last time we’d be seeing the three greats — Tendulkar, Laxman and Dravid — together in an overseas series. That’s a poignant thought for ardent fans who await the surfacing of Indian cricket’s new sentinels.

    With them, we looked secure. Now as their inevitable goodbyes draw close, there’s a dire urgency to find their replacements. Perhaps, there will never be like-for-like replacements.

    The reason isn’t lack of talent — we have enough to be proud of — but the strain on players. Juggling three formats will take its toll and it would be naïve to believe that current players will last two decades in international cricket. Hence it would be advisable to not look too far ahead and focus on immediate replacements.

    With thousands of runs scored every First Class

    Read More »from The trinity's last stand
  • Sehwag Must Fire For India To Make A Comeback

    Virender Sehwag's former opening partner expects him to summon the attitude that came to India's rescue in the past.

    Virender Sehwag’s triumphs need no assertion, especially in Test match cricket - his two splendid triple Sehwag arrives at the training session at the WACA in Perth ahead of the third Test.centuries (I was at the other end during his first triple century against Pakistan in Multan) and quite a few double hundreds endorse his allegiance to cricket’s purist format. Amidst a plethora of such consummate innings, stand out two that define his character - first, the 195 he scored at the MCG in 2003-04, and second, the innings of 151 runs that he played at Adelaide four years later against the same opposition.
     
    Unfortunately though, four years since that stupendous innings, Sehwag hasn’t managed to hit a single century outside the sub-continent - something that saddens his fans, including me, to no limits. Has he got sucked into the reputation of batting the way ‘Sehwag is supposed to bat’? It isn’t that he’s batting poorly - the timing is still there and also the hunger (an ODI double century proves that). So what is it?
     
    Sehwag is known to be an entertainer of very fine Read More »from Sehwag Must Fire For India To Make A Comeback
  • How Rajasthan held their ground

    A three-part series on Rajasthan went from Ranji Trophy no-hopers to champions to strugglers again before defending their title.

    Rajasthan's Ranji Trophy team led by Hrishikesh Kanitkar, first in whites from the left.

    Starting From Scratch


    As we sat in our dressing room on a cold November day of 2011, at the end of the match against Karnataka, the pressure of being the defending champions had already evaporated. We may have been the Ranji champions last season, had started as favourites this season too — but the opposition had outplayed us in every department now, that too in our own backyard. This game, we’d saved by the skin of our teeth — our fairytale journey had indeed ended, we realized that it was time to wake up and smell the coffee.

    Winning the title the previous year meant absolutely nothing this year — we weren’t entitled to any favours. If anything, our status as defending champions made the oppositions bring their best game to the park. We needed to step up a few notches to stay relevant in the tournament. Since we had seen the worst (Karnataka piled over 600 runs and enforced the follow-on) in the very first game, we vowed to not throw in the towel regardless of the situation.
     
    Hammered

    Read More »from How Rajasthan held their ground
  • When Haryana gave themselves away

    A three-part series on Rajasthan went from Ranji Trophy no-hopers to champions to strugglers again before defending their title.

    (This is Part 2 of the story of Rajasthan's successful title defense | Read Part 1 | Part 3)

    Battle for Survival


    One look at the pitch made Jaydev Shah, Saurashtra’s captain, ask in jest if it was a cricket pitch or a billiard’s table. Yes, it was a bit too green and also a bit too moist for our liking but these were exceptional circumstances. We, Rajasthan, had reached a stage where if we hadn’t strived for the maximum points (six) from the Saurashtra game, we would have had to bid goodbye to the knockouts. It was a different matter, that even a win would have given us only an outside chance. Consequently, and with fingers crossed, we dished out a green top knowing fully well that if we lost the toss we would be asked to bat first and then the hope of an outright win would fall flat on its face. But the gamble was worth taking, for our batting was still in good form.
     
    As it always happens, when the home team tinkers with the conditions to suit their cause, we lost the toss and were asked

    Read More »from When Haryana gave themselves away
  • Rajasthan's leap of faith

    How the underdogs overcame Tamil Nadu in the 2011 Ranji Trophy semifinal

    (Excerpted from Out of the Blue, by Aakash Chopra, published by Harper Collins, 2011, Rs 299, with the publisher's permission)

    ‘Will Tamil Nadu stop Rajasthan’s dream run?’ queried a news headline a few mornings before the big match. Later that day, a friend from Chennai called to thank the Rajasthan boys for defeating Mumbai and paving the way for an inevitable Tamil Nadu victory. During the net sessions too, we found the Tamil Nadu team looking super-confident. The star-studded line-up wore a look of obvious superiority.

    Somehow, and to our utter amazement, nobody—not the media, not the fans, not even the fraternity itself—was ready to recognize us as a potential threat. Even after we’d beaten the best in the business and won the last seven games on the trot, on merit. An underdog toiling hard and taking on the world is fun to watch, but to believe it could go the distance and beat the favourites takes quite another leap of faith.

    ***

    Until a few days ago, while playing Mumbai, and in

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  • Acknowledgement of performance is important: Chopra

    Rajasthan opener Aakash Chopra dwells on two triumphant seasons, and the road ahead.

    The triumphant Rajasthan team.

    Indian domestic cricket is a complicated creature. The scorecards, the fat batting averages, the results conceal more than they reveal to the untrained eye. That is why you need an insider to guide you through its many complexities. Someone, who has waged many cricketing battles over the years, or someone who can talk about the sport with the authority of an academician. Luckily for us, there’s Aakash Chopra who straddles the divide with ease.

    Rajasthan, where Chopra is an opening batsman, became the fifth team to win the Ranji Trophy two years in a row. Two seasons ago, they were the wooden spooners. They turned it around. Importing players from other states (including Hrishikesh Kanitkar as captain), and hiring a support staff to manage the team off the field put the onus on the players to deliver.  Deliver they did.

    Chopra’s recently-released book, Out Of The Blue, begins with these poignant words: “When you are Rajasthan, last in the Plate division, never having won the title,

    Read More »from Acknowledgement of performance is important: Chopra
  • How Tamil Nadu's slow pitch ploy backfired

    Part 3 of Rajasthan's road to the Ranji Trophy win.

    Read Part 1 | Part 2

    The Rajasthan team after winning the Ranji Trophy, with captain Hrishikesh Kanitkar in the centre, sitting. (Credit: Aakash Chopra/Yahoo! Cricket)

    Our semi-final against Haryana ended in two days — preposterous for a match of that stature. The flip side was that we were left with a couple of choices to toy with —firstly, the option of taking the six-hour ride back to Jaipur for some practice before the final in Chennai, or fly straight well in advance to acclimatize. We did the latter — thanks to the accommodating Tamil Nadu Cricket Association.

    Last year, Vadodara hadn’t been as convivial — they’d told us to delay our arrival, since the practice pitches hadn’t been readied. Our experience in the circuit told us that that was a rather lame excuse to disrupt our preparations, but we couldn’t do much about it. We were happy that TNCA obliged.
     
    Playing in Chennai requires skill modification – the pitch made of red soil has extra bounce and assistance for spinners – but the city also needs you to get used to the heat, especially if you’ve just finished a game in freezing Lahli. Our preparation, not sure if by

    Read More »from How Tamil Nadu's slow pitch ploy backfired
  • The Ajit Agarkar vs Mumbai fiasco

    ‘The Ranji Team for the domestic one-day games had been announced, and the morning’s newspapers were carrying the line-up. I was looking for the new names that had found their way into the team. But something was hugely awry. The players I’d known would make it to the team were all on the list. The ones that got no attention in all these days of practice had been taken off the list, no surprises there. But the reporter had bungled up—big time. He had to have; why else would my name not be on a list that had carried it for over a decade now (and leading the list, thanks to the double ‘a’ in Aakash). I went over the list again. This time I read out each name, but no, there was no ‘Aakash Chopra’… Not for a moment did I consider this preposterous possibility—until now, as I sat still, blank, forced to wrap my head around the idea. u000a   u000a …Of course, having my name struck off the list was a huge blow. But that is how it is. No matter how brave a face a player presents, there is

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