Still hoping to make a comeback

Aakash Chopra…the media face of the Rajasthan Ranji team.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

“Who wouldn't want to play at the highest level? But I am not thinking too much about it. My focus is on scoring runs and I am not worrying too much about the outcome,” says Aakash Chopra. By Arun Venugopal.

What happens when Rajasthan wins the Ranji Trophy for the second time in succession? Sure enough, there are the customary celebrations: a bunch of excited men running waywardly clutching stump-souvenirs, generous dosages of back-slaps and embraces, spirited howls and ceaseless photo-sessions. And then, there is that ubiquitous entity — the media — looking to milk the moment. Who does it turn to for quotes that would reflect the enormity of the occasion? Aakash Chopra, of course.

The man from Delhi, who has now bagged a brace of National Championships with Rajasthan, is the media face of the team. Erudite and voluble, Chopra has made a name for himself as a cricket pundit of some repute in the last few years. His books — Beyond the Blues and Out of the Blue (the latter chronicles Rajasthan's fairytale maiden Ranji triumph in 2010-11) — have been well received too.

After Chopra has finished disseminating information in accordance with the varying demands of TV channels — some prefer English bytes while others require him to speak in Hindi — Sportstar catches up with him. This question can't be resisted: Has this win sowed the seeds for a third book?

Chopra laughs heartily before admitting it is a tedious task. “The third book may or may not come. But even my last book was about the lives of cricketers who were otherwise mere names on the scoreboards. So I am not sure if I can come up with something novel.”

The 34-year-old is “pleasantly surprised” at the attention the Ranji Trophy has received this year, especially on social networking sites.

“Twitter and Facebook have allowed people to follow the prospects of different teams. It's a good thing,” he says.

An omnipresent personality in the cyber space, Chopra doesn't find it hard to balance writing and cricket. “I have never had difficulty in writing. I have always been writing and playing quite a bit. It doesn't distract me. In fact, you can generate awareness about domestic cricket through the social media platform. There is a flip side to it too. We got a lot of flak for our slow batting on the second day (in the final) and I bore the brunt of it. But that's ok,” he smiles.

It was in 2004 that Chopra took to writing seriously. “When I went to England I wrote a diary for Hindustan Times called ‘Scribbles through Summer'. It was a very popular column and that was the trigger for me to start writing more frequently. There is also a great responsibility that comes with being a writer: You need to call a spade a spade and be honest to the reader. That's always been the endeavour,” he says.

The subject of discussion soon shifts to the Rajasthan team and Chopra has found it an entirely new experience being a senior pro. “At one level, perhaps yes. Playing for Delhi for 13 years, you expect victory all the time. I started playing with Raman Lamba, Manoj Prabhakar and I have also played with some of the younger guys. That helped me understand things about senior-junior relationships. In the Rajasthan team, the kids are happy to imbibe your knowledge. I know these guys a lot more than my Delhi team-mates. I am more tuned in with their personal lives.”

Chopra illustrates how the team is an extended family: “If the tournament is ending today, then it's my wife who's going to feel more upset. The whole unit has been one happy family.”

The stoic opener, who aggregated 615 runs (two 100s, two 50s) at 43.92 in the competition, isn't ruling out a comeback to the national team.

“Who wouldn't want to play at the highest level? But I am not thinking too much about it. My focus is on scoring runs and I am not worrying too much about the outcome,” he says.