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Interview with Anjum Chopra

CricInfo's Anand Vasu caught up with Anjum Chopra for an exclusive interview.

AV: When did you start playing cricket? Cricket is still a male dominated game in this country. How did it all begin?

AC: I guess I started like almost everybody else does, playing with my brother and his friends. We played a lot of cricket in the colony and one day I saw an advertisement in the newspapers asking for girls to try out for the Under-15 team. I went for the trials, got selected and just started playing the game.

AV: When you started playing cricket for fun, did you actually think that one day you would be playing for India so successfully?

AC: It was always a dream to play for the country. When people told me that I would make it to the Indian team one day, I always thought that the standard of the Indian team was too high. I knew I would have to put in a lot of effort to make it to that level. By God's grace I did make it to the team finally, and I'm very happy about it. Wearing India colours has been one of the most important moments for me. To play for your nation is one of the most important things in a player's career.

AV: There has always been a lot of sport in your family. The story goes that even your pet dog would catch a ball thrown at him.

AC: Yeah (laughs), I have a pet and even he is crazy about cricket. I come from a very sporty family. My grandfather was an Olympic athlete, my father plays golf, my mother is a rally driver, my brother used to play cricket for Delhi, and my uncle was a very successful wicket keeper batsman - he played for India A. I have a lot of sports people in my family and sports comes naturally to me.

AV: It certainly looks like that when you're batting, but you actually made your debut as a mediumpacer.

AC: When I went to New Zealand in 1995, I opened the bowling for India in the first match. I used to bowl as a regular mediumpace bowler but slowly I developed as a batswomen. In the next series against England I started opening the batting in one of the Test matches. After that I was consistently batting in the top order and developed as an allrounder.

AV: Your debut must have been a special moment. Do you have any intense memories of that?

AC: I remember very clearly. I went in to bat number nine. We needed about 16 runs to win in around four or five overs. My vice captain was batting at the other end. It took a lot of courage for me to walk in on my debut and make sure that India won the game. My duty was just to hang around at the wicket while my vice captain did all the scoring. I think I made one or two not out! I just did the running while she did all the hitting! It was really special and took a lot of effort. I was really nervous in that game.

AV: From there you have come a long way and played many special innings. Would the century you scored in England off 128 balls be your best?

AC: I would say that. To be very honest, I don't remember my century at all. I just remember getting the hundredth run and putting up my bat in the dressing room. It didn't strike me that I had scored a hundred. All I was thinking about was the scoreboard and that India should cross 200-225. Now as I look back at the paper cuttings it does strike me as special that I've scored a century in a one-day international. Not too many Indian batswomen have done that.

AV: Off late you haven't been bowling that much. The Indian team is stacked with spinners and a batswoman who can bowl mediumpace will be very useful.

AC: I've always enjoyed bowling, whether it is in domestic or international cricket. I have not been bowling much because the spinners have been so successful. I would love to start bowling again. It's always handy to have a bowler who can bat at the top order or a batswoman who can be a strike bowler.

AV: When one watches you playing, you look very focussed. You also prepare carefully before going in to bat. Is that something that came naturally to you or did a coach teach you that?

AC: I think these things come naturally. I have now started following a set pattern before I go in to bat. I sit quietly, try to focus and remember the basics. I try to think about all the things I have done well before and get into a positive frame of mind.

AV: Air India is a side stacked with talent and you're playing for them. How much has that helped in your journey to success?

AC: I think Air India has been instrumental in grooming me as a player. I was already playing for the country when I started playing for Air India. But playing with seniors really helped. It's a very competitive team and my place in the team is not guaranteed just because I play for India. We always had openers in the Air India side and I often had to bat lower in the order. There have been many times when I have been dropped from the Air India side to give somebody else a chance. I have even had to bat at number seven or eight. It has always been a battle and we really have to fight for our places. Even if you claim to be an allrounder you have to prove it. It has also helped in grooming the killer instinct in me. The professionalism I learnt there has held me in good stead. I must add that this has been possible only because my employers, Bank of Punjab Limited, who have been kind enough to allow me to play for Air India.

AV: A lot of sportspersons lose out on a lot of things because of the time spent in playing and training. Some people lose out on careers, some on academics. You seem to have managed it all quite well. You took your Masters in Business Administration while you were playing cricket. Was that hard to do?

AC: It was very hard. To manage cricket and studies was an uphill task. There were so many times when I had to make tough decisions - whether to play for the country or to take my exams. It was a difficult decision, but on one occasion God took that decision for me and a tournament India were supposed to play in was cancelled! Luckily a lot of decisions made themselves. When I finished playing the World Cup and went back to college I was not allowed to take my exams because I had not attended enough classes. I had to fight my case there as well. I guess, like everybody else, I wouldn't have studied if my parents hadn't forced me to. They were very adamant that I should finish my exams. There was a time when I had to miss the senior nationals because of my exams. I was playing at Eden Gardens and we were in the finals. My father was very strict and made me come back to Delhi to write my exams. I really fought that decision and did not speak to my father for a month thereafter. Looking back though, I think that his decision was right.

AV: You're just 23 and a key member of the Indian team. What are your goals from here on?

AC: I always believe in setting short term goals. You never know what's going to happen in the long term. I'm very, very focussed on the CricInfo Women's World Cup. I want to give the best performance possible. If there was something better than the best then that's what I would aim for. I want to win the World Cup for the country. It will be good for women's cricket in India. It will be a point proven to the entire world - that the Indian women's team is good. It will prove to the nation that it's not only other sports that people have to look after or look forward to. There are women cricketers, who, without the support of many things, have made it to the highest level in the world. The winning feeling is going to be out of this world if we can manage it.


Anjum Chopra on India's chances in Cricinfo Women's World Cup 2000

AV: You must be pretty excited about the World Cup that's coming up. How much are you thinking about it?

AC: I definitely am very excited about the World Cup and we are all gearing up for the tournament. We all hope that India does exceedingly well in the tournament and we will try getting the trophy to India.

AV: You played in the 1997 World Cup but could not make much of a mark then. You are a much more experienced player now and have a limited overs hundred under your belt. How is this World Cup different from the last one?

AC: I definitely have more experience now than in 1997. In that regard I am looking forward to this World Cup and am looking forward to doing well. I'm hoping to get good scores, and if I bowl, I'll be looking to pick wickets. I will be trying to put up a good performance that will help my team.

AV: Batting in Indian conditions is one thing. However, in New Zealand there is going to be a lot of assistance for the mediumpacers. The ball will swing and seam considerably. Are you worried about this?

AC: Absolutely not. Here in India we have been playing against the boys quite a bit. We have also played on some well prepared turf wickets where the ball does come up a bit. By playing against the boys we have got used to playing good pace attacks. We have taken precautions to counter the pace we will be up against at the international level. We are also playing against the spinners here and are prepared to face both forms of bowling.

AV: Some people are of the opinion that India are lacking in the medium pace department in that we don't have anyone who is genuinely quick. You started off as a medium pacer, what do you have to say about that?

AC: I would have to agree that we don't have any genuinely quick bowlers. The medium pacers we have concentrate more on bowling a good line and length and getting the ball to swing. I guess that is more important at the international level. You might have the pace and still get clobbered all over the park. If you are a shade slower and have good control over your bowling, that is what is really needed in this form of the game.

AV: Who would you say are India's biggest opponents in the forthcoming CricInfo Women's World Cup 2000?

AC: We will have to watch for all teams. I'd like to look at each match as a new day and a new beginning. Naturally the strongest contenders are Australia, England and New Zealand. I would rate these three teams as better than the others, but I wouldn't take any team lightly, whether it's South Africa or Sri Lanka.

AV: How is the coming tournament different for you, being the vice captain of the team?

AC: Having the vice-captaincy under my belt has given me a boost. It has given me a lot more to look forward to. I am looking forward to the tournament and am really excited about it.

AV: Are there any specific players you are looking out for in the World Cup?

AC: From Australia, we are looking out for Belinda Clark, the all rounder, Cathryn Fitzpatrick, the bowler and the leg spinner Olivia Magno. They are all good cricketers. When we play against them we will mark them out. Against England we will watch out for Charlotte Edwards. Clare Connor is a good spinner. We have a few players marked out. Let's see how we play against them.

AV: India has not done very well in the World Cup competitions. We did get close last time but could not seal it. What are you going to do differently this time around?

AC: The last World Cup was unfortunate for us. The first game against Sri Lanka was washed out, we then tied with New Zealand. Again we were penalised two overs in the game against Australia and that proved to be very costly for us. This time we have worked on a few strategies, we have a gameplan for each team. The cricketing manager, the coach and the captain have all discussed it and we will use whatever is the best combination on the day.

AV: Thank you very much for speaking with us. We wish you all the best both as opening bat and vice-captain.

AC: Thank you, Anand.


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Anjum Chopra
Anjum Chopra

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