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.”