Former India openers Aakash Chopra and Virender Sehwag started their international careers almost at the same time. While Sehwag made his debut for India in 2001, Aakash Chopra did it in 2003. But while Sehwag went on to become one of the greatest openers in the history of the game, Aakash Chopra failed to follow that path.
A domestic cricket stalwart, Aakash Chopra was Sehwag’s opening partner during the famous tours of Australia in 2003/04 and the tour of Pakistan in 2004. In both the series, Sehwag had made his mark. He scored 195 in the Melbourne Test before becoming the first Indian to score a triple century in Tests during the Multan Test.
Aakash Chopra, on the other hand, failed to score big in any of the games. He was finally dropped from the side after the home series against Australia in 2004. The former cricketer-turned-commentator recently recalled his international career and revealed how Sehwag advised him to score big to avoid getting dropped from the team.
“He would come and tell me, ‘Chopraji ye 40-40 run maar rahe ho drop ho jaoge team se. Set hone ke baad out hone se koi khelta nahi hai aage (Chopra ji, you are scoring 40-40 scores, would be dropped from the team. No one stays in the team if he gets out after settling down).’ And he would also say the same thing about himself,” Aakash Chopra said during a recent with Gaurav Kapur on his ’22 Yarns’ Podcast uploaded on Spotify.
Sehwag was indeed right as Aakash Chopra was soon dropped from the side and failed to break it into the team again. In his 10-Test career, he scored 437 runs with the help of a couple of fifties.
Sehwag’s understanding of his game:
Aakash Chopra further praised Sehwag, saying just how good his ex-India teammate was about understanding his game. He spoke about how self-aware and honest Sehwag was about his game, and knew exactly where his strengths and weaknesses were.
“His (Sehwag) strength is that he is brutally honest about what he could and couldn’t do. Even with all the bravado and aggression and ‘Viru’ style of playing, you won’t remember him actually taking on a bouncer. Now that’s discipline,” Aakash Chopra said.
“That tells you loads about what’s behind that exterior, that facade that we see, which is carefree, happy-go-lucky, see the ball hit the ball. He’s seen a bouncer, and he hasn’t attempted it in 8,000 Test runs. So that kind of discipline, understanding, and conviction in his own game was unbelievable.
“He would tell you, ‘Yaar ball zyada swing ho raha hai, aaj mera nahi chalega, tu wahi reh (ball is swinging too much, my shots won’t work),’ knowing fully well ke ‘ye meri strength nai hai (today is not my day)’. See, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is very important. Knowing what you can, and more importantly, can’t do. He knew that ‘abhi ball swing ho raha hai, phas jaunga. Chod na, abhi 5-7 over nikal jayenge to achha hi hai (Ball is swinging now, I will get stuck. Let us stick out 5-7 overs in the middle)’. He knew that if he stays there then he can put them to the sword,” he added.