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Delving deep into Prashant Chopra’s maiden triple ton

Himachal opener and Head Coach Vikram Rathour reflect on the batsman’s marathon knock

Prashant Chopra’s unbeaten 271 on Day 1 (6th Oct) of the Ranji Trophy 2017-18 is the second most number of runs scored by a batsman on a single day in the history of the tournament. The Himachal opener followed it up by posting his maiden first-class triple century on his 25th birthday on Saturday. 


Speaking to bcci.tv about dual celebrations, Chopra said, “It feels good because you don’t always get a chance to give yourself a birthday gift.”

Reflecting on the 338-run knock which took a lot of patience and discipline, Chopra said, “Vikram Rathour sir is our coach this year. He has been talking to me. His message to me was to carry on (batting). At lunch (on Day 1) I was not out on 84. He told me, ‘I want to see your double hundred today.’ He told me to play normally and I followed his instructions. When I came back to the dressing room at Tea (Day 1) on 180 not out, he told me that he wanted a triple hundred from me from that situation.

Talking about his marathon knock, he added, “It required a lot of patience because when you are batting on 150-160 then your intentions are to hit over the top. But in this entire innings of 363 balls, I hit only two lofted shots and those were the two sixes that I hit. I have not played like this in my career so far; not playing the lofted shots. The first time I lofted the ball I was on 46 to get past 50 and that was a six and again I lofted the ball after going past 300,” Chopra said.

Elaborating further on setting targets for Chopra and helping him shape his innings, Vikram Rathour, who has joined Himachal as their Director of Cricket and head coach said, “Prashant bats in a flow and when he starts playing his shots, he overdoes it at times. He is an extremely talented player who, at times starts finding it too easy, so I was just giving him different challenges. I gave him a challenge to score runs with singles in a particular session. I asked him to if he can do that? In one session it was about not playing the pull shot as they were trying to set him up by bowling the short ball. So, I told him I want to see him not falling into that trap and it worked.”

Speaking about his batting after resuming on 271 on Day 2, Chopra said, “Their plan was to get me off the strike and not let me score runs by bowling a bit wide. So, they were attacking and they got two wickets in the first three overs. They wanted to get me off the strike and attack the other batsman. But I was okay with that. I had no intentions of hitting them. It was a fresh day. Though I was batting on 271, I was thinking that I was on 71 so I need to make the most of it and I was counting each and every run. Even after 300, I was thinking I was on zero.”

While Punjab tried to keep the opener in check, Ankush Bains helped ease the pressure off and maintained a steady flow of runs. Speaking about the partnership, Chopra said, “After losing two wickets in the morning, the pressure was on us again. He batted at No 6 instead of his usual opening spot. He came in and was hitting the ball well. He played really good shots and that helped me. I could actually take my time and didn’t have to worry as he maintained the flow of runs. What matters is that there are runs on the board and that helped.”

Speaking about his sparkling innings, Chopra said, “Initially, I was giving myself time. We had a discussion that we will bat first no matter what the wicket does. Once the openers survive the first hour, then it is about how the batsmen take it forward. After I passed fifty, I was in my zone because of the way I was hitting the ball. A few shots (that I played) even I didn’t believe how I played them. When I returned I got a compliment from Vikram sir that few of the shots were like what he had seen Virender Sehwag play and that was a confidence booster.”

Asked about the comparison that lifted his ward’s spirits, Rathour said, “I’ve seen some of Sehwag’s brilliant knocks in domestic and international cricket and this knock really reminded me of him. I have been around for more than 25 years now but never been in a game where 460 runs (459/2) were scored on the first day in a Ranji Trophy game. This was an outstanding innings that he played and against a good attack. All the three guys (Manpreet Grewal, Sandeep Sharma and Barinder Sran) have played for India. Some of the shots he played actually reminded me of Viru.

“I have just started working with the boys. I have joined HPCA as their Director about two months back. Chopra has always been a great stroke player and has lots of ability. The only thing I think he needs to work on is his control a bit more because he is always in a hurry when he bats. I am extremely happy for him as it is a great start for the season,” Rathour said about his ward.

Chopra, who has been listening keenly seemed to have imbibed the words of wisdom. While looking back on his momentous occasion the batsman said, “My aim before the season was to win Ranji Trophy for Himachal and it is my job to score runs. Definitely, I have started with a good knock but the whole season is there. I won’t be there for the next match as I will be playing for India ‘A’. But when I return, my aim will be to score as many runs as I can help my team win. Winning the Ranji Trophy is my main aim and hopefully, we can achieve it. I want to be consistent with my performance. Last season I was in the top three and I again want to be there in the top performers and show that I am consistent with my performance.” 

BCCI Staff

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Wanted to unsettle the bowlers: Pujara

Batsman speaks about leading ROI and the vintage Pujara style of batting

Cheteshwar Pujara led Rest of India to a six-wicket victory against Gujarat in the 2017 edition of the Irani Cup. While the result may not reflect it, the game had swung between the two sides until, the top-order bat along with Wriddhiman Saha (203*) resolutely chased down the 379-run target with a record unbroken 316-run fifth wicket stand in the Cup’s history.

ROI had conceded the first innings lead to the Parthiv Patel-led team as Pujara ran out of partners and was himself the seventh wicket to fall. However, in the second innings the skipper anchored the chase with an unbeaten 116 while the wicketkeeper-batsman counter-attacked to seize the game.

In an interview with bcci.tv, Pujara spoke about captaincy and his trademark innings while reflecting on the match.

Excerpts:

How do you look back on the win given the ups and downs during the match?

All in all it was a very good game of cricket. Gujarat played really well. We were always under pressure starting from the first innings. They got runs on the board, 358 in the first innings (but) probably they were also under pressure when they lost six wickets early. However, Chirag Gandhi batted really well and they came back into the game. We didn’t bat well in the first innings so we were behind them. Credit goes to our bowlers for restricting them to 246 (in the second innings). When we were chasing a total below 400 (379 runs), psychologically we had that advantage. We knew that on this wicket we could chase this total. (Also) in last year’s Irani Cup match Rest of India chased down 480 runs so we were very confident when we went in to bat. We didn’t get off to a good start, but Saha and my partnership (316 runs) was crucial for us to win this game.

You ran out of partners in the first innings so what was your advise to Saha since you both were the last recognised batting pair?

When he came in to bat (at 63/4) he told me that he is going to take on the bowlers; hit the balls which are on the fuller lengths. I told him ‘yes, you probably have to bat that way,’ because we wanted to unsettle the bowlers. And at the other end I was there to see that we didn’t lose any more wickets and hit the loose balls. So he kept on going; he kept on hitting the bowlers and then they didn’t know what to do.

Batsmen have said that your presence at other end inspires confidence to go on. What helps you stay calm?

It is probably the experience from having played a lot of domestic cricket. Now I also have the experience of playing at the international circuit so that does help. I think when you keep playing this format, this game and keep on scoring runs you know what to do when you face (difficult) situations. I try and analyse the situation and keep communicating with my partner.

What is the key to your temperament?

I think the number of runs I have scored in junior cricket and then moving on to first-class cricket (has built it). When I keep scoring big and once I get that temperament, I get that concentration to keep on playing the long innings. 

How significant is this innings in context of the forthcoming Test series?

It was very crucial because I wanted some practice before the one-off test match against Bangladesh and the four Test matches against Australia. I wanted to prepare myself and this was the right opportunity playing at first-class level. I have some T20 matches coming up – domestic T20s (Zonal) and then again move on to the Test format.

How much have you enjoyed the captaincy role?

I enjoyed it. We didn’t get off to a good start, but we all got together and decided that this is not the way we want to play our cricket. There is lot of potential in all the players, who have performed well in first-class cricket (and so) they got into the Rest of India team. We had a chat, we discussed that we wanted to put up a better show. Everyone stood up; they took the responsibility, so it was easier for me. 

What do you tell youngsters who have played fewer matches? How do you motivate them?

I don’t need to say much. All are mature players, but whenever there is (such) a time, you just need to remind them that this is the platform that all the youngsters are looking forward to and you can showcase your talent. When you have done well in the Ranji Trophy and you are selected for this particular tournament you need (use the opportunity) to show that you deserve to play for the Indian team and if you want to play for the Indian team this is the right platform where you can perform. 

How would you sum up the performance of ROI bowlers, especially Siddharth Kaul and Shahbaz Nadeem? 

I would say that all the bowlers did really well. Starting from Pankaj Singh, Siddharth (Kaul) and Md Siraj - the three fast bowlers and then Shahbaz Nadeem and Kuldeep Yadav. Kuldeep didn’t get many wickets but he is very talented and hardworking. I think all the bowlers did well, but yes, I think Kaul and Nadeem bowled well. They got wickets and it was crucial for us to get wickets in the second innings because as we didn’t want to chase a big total.

Ahead of the match you had spoken about working on a few things in your batting, how did that work out?

I couldn’t play many shots and the shots that I had worked on needed a situation to be executed. The situation was such that I had to hang around and we were chasing a big total. Saha was going well and the team required that I just keep rotating the strike, hit the loose balls and not try too many fancy things. 

Very satisfying to take the team to the finish line with an unbeaten knock?

I always believe that when you are set, when you can win the game for the team you don’t need to throw away your wicket. You need to make sure that the team goes through. It was the right situation for me (to do that).

Prajakta Pawar
Prajakta Pawar

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