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Exclusive Interview with Anjum Chopra: Asia Cup failure was not expected from the Indian team

Anjum Chopra
Anjum Chopra

Endowed with a deep-seated passion for sports, a constant desire to excel in different walks of life and an articulate mind above all, Anjum Chopra—former captain of the Indian women’s cricket team—has set a template to be emulated by one and all.

Having made her international debut in a one-day international against New Zealand at Christchurch in February 1995, the Delhi southpaw went on to win 127 ODI, 12 Test and 18 T20I caps for India in a career spanning seventeen years [1995-2012], scoring 3,645 international runs in the process.

Promoted to captaincy in 2002, the highlight of Chopra’s captaincy stint has to be the historic 5-0 ODI series whitewash of a visiting English side in the same year, a series which saw as many as seven players make their debuts.

Driven by the same air of confidence that was so intrinsic to her playing days, today, Chopra has become one of the most acknowledged voices of women’s cricket whose insights and opinions about the stream of events around her have many a taker in the global cricket fraternity.

Cricfit.com correspondent, Ritam Basu, recently had a freewheeling chat with the cricketer-turned-commentator where she spoke about her early days in cricket, expressed her disappointment over India’s loss in the final of the Women’s Asia Cup and elucidated what her new chat show is all about.

Q: Tell us about your formative years in cricket.

Anjum Chopra: I belong to a sporting family… [I] was encouraged to play sports and was provided guidance from the very beginning. Sports were always important in the family, but never at the cost of studies.

Q: Did you have any cricketing role-model when you started playing the game?

Anjum Chopra: No! Not really. I used to play at home with my brother and uncle and took to the sport playing alongside them.

Q: Even today, when we think of an Indian women’s cricket captain, the first name that springs to mind is Anjum Chopra. Looking back at your illustrious career, how was the experience of captaining your national side at the highest level for nearly a decade?

Anjum Chopra: Well it’s a feeling that is hard to express. Playing for India is a matter of great pride for anyone and then to captain the national side is a feeling par excellence. I always feel humbled to have achieved the honour of captaining the national side.

Q: You played your cricket at a time when there was no spotlight on women’s cricket as such, save the World Cups and a few odd bilateral series’. Nowadays, when you see the Harmanpreet Kaurs and the Smriti Mandhanas garner so much media attention, do you sometimes wish that you played the game in this era?

Anjum Chopra: No, not at all. As I said, playing for India is a matter of great pride, whatever era it is. Yes, nowadays it’s much more followed and remunerated, but that’s a natural progression. If this does not happen then the sport is not making progress in the world. In regard to playing for India- well I am always ready to wear national colours and represent my country. I don’t miss playing for India, but yes, I do feel I could have contributed much more than I have actually done.

Q: Is women’s cricket on the international circuit more competitive today than it has ever been?

Anjum Chopra:[I] won’t say [whether it has become] more or less competitive. International cricket has to be competitive. It’s just that the sport has changed over the years and become busier with more opportunities for players.

Q: Did India’s loss against Bangladesh in the final of this year’s Asia Cup come across as a big shocker for you? Where do you think India went wrong in the final?

Anjum Chopra: It was a shock the first day the team lost. The second time, I was there to witness it as I was in the commentary box. India seemed clueless in the final. I have seen Bangladesh play before also and they are an upcoming side.

The Indian team lacked intensity, planning, execution and more importantly the hunger/ desire to win. It was a very poor show in the Asia Cup in Malaysia; [it was] not expected from a team that has garnered so much attention, appreciation and acceptance especially in the last twelve months. Once you play for the country, the onus and responsibility increases.

Q: Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami are now in the twilight of their careers. Does the Indian team have a good supply line in place to replace these two stalwarts after they retire?

Anjum Chopra: Yes, there is talent. I hope the players realise their potential and grab the opportunities that come their way.

Q: You are an all-rounder in the true sense of the term. An international cricketer, an MBA, co-author of a book dealing with women’s cricket, a popular face in the commentary box now, and the list of your achievements just goes on and on. What is the secret behind Anjum Chopra’s ability to dabble in so many diverse roles, and that too with such great confidence?

Anjum Chopra: Well, thank you. The idea is to keep moving and try to keep succeeding. Confidence stems from preparation and the desire to succeed drives the same.

Q: Your chat show has generated quite a buzz on YouTube right from its inception. Is the show your own brainchild? Are we going to see overseas players being invited on that show as well?

Anjum Chopra: Yes! It is. I always wanted to create this. I always wanted to get into the area where I am able to meet and explore the mindsets of achievers. A chance to meet them, hear their stories, understand their profession and how they perceive things and go about their routines always allured me, so no better way than to have them feature on my show: ‘’Different Strokes with Anjum Chopra’’ (smiles).
Yes, the canvas will have people ranging from different fields. International sportspersons and achievers will also be invited.

Q: Do you think the state of women’s cricket in India has improved ever since the Lodha Committee made certain recommendations in this regard?

Anjum Chopra: I am not sure what these recommendations are and how they have impacted the women’s game. But, a sport must go on regardless of what happens in the committee rooms.

Q: What are the areas that still require significant improvement?

Anjum Chopra: Everything. All round efforts are required for the team to make holistic improvement and become consistent at winning tournaments at the international level.

Q: The Women’s IPL T20 Challenge—played between Smriti Mandhana’s IPL Trailblazers and Harmanpreet Kaur’s IPL Supernovas at the Wankhede Stadium on 22nd May, 2018—was said to herald a ‘new epoch’ in the annals of Indian cricket. Is India ready yet for a women’s IPL?

Anjum Chopra: Well I thought we were ready in 2010 and we could have had a women’s league then. A lot of time has gone past now. Let’s hope the women’s team does well in the upcoming World T20 in West Indies in November. It might be a good starting point.

Q: It is a common notion in cricketing circles that good captains of yesteryear generally make good administrators. Can we expect to see Anjum Chopra in some administrative role in future? 

Anjum Chopra: I have been the chairperson of selectors for the Delhi women’s team for the last couple of years. This season we [DDCA] won the best state award at the BCCI annual function. As far as cricket administration is concerned, I may perhaps venture into it in future. Let’s see what opportunities come my way.