September 9, 2008

Warming up

Season's greetings

Aakash Chopra
The victorious Delhi squad lift the Ranji Trophy, Delhi v Uttar Pradesh, Ranji Trophy Super League final, Mumbai, 4th day, January 19, 2008
 © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Hi everyone

The new season of domestic cricket kicks off next week when Delhi, my team, take on the champion team from Pakistan at the Kotla. To be honest it seems like only yesterday that we were packing our bags after the last game of the IPL, but that's the way cricket is these days. We are certainly not complaining, though. The more cricket we get to play (we being those playing first-class cricket), the more opportunities we get to perform and get noticed, meanwhile also earning a bit of money, which is vital for a first-class cricketer.

There's never really an off-season these days, even for first-class cricketers unless they choose it to be that way. As soon as the season is over, a few go to England to play club cricket during the summer while the rest play for the organisations they work for in summer tournaments.

The ones who go to England have it a little easy as the matches are played only on weekends. During the week, they can plan their off-season training schedule as they desire, but life isn't that rosy for the ones working for different organisations back home. They find it tough to keep going in the same vein after the gruelling first-class season has finally come to an end. There are obviously a few niggles following a long season, especially if one has done well and spent long hours on the field, and a breather is almost necessary. But the organisations they're working for would have none of it. They pay these players round the year only to have them playing during this off-season. So fatigue and niggles be damned, they must turn up and do well for their employers. You can't always get what you want.

I didn't go to England this year as I had had a very long season that started in September last year and finished in May. I wanted to give myself a break, and hence chose to stay in Delhi and spend some time with my family and friends, and more importantly away from the game for a while. One needs to unwind properly in order to be 100% ready for the next assignment. If the previous assignment happens to be a nine-month-long first-class season, if you add the IPL to it, one must regroup mentally and physically to find that hunger again before embarking on the journey for the next season.

But being away from the game doesn't mean not doing anything. My mantra during the off-season is something that my dad learnt during his days in the Air Force: the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. We might not be preparing for a war, but a first-class season can come close to one. So while I stayed away from active cricket for a couple of months, I spent a lot of time trying to get my body in shape, hoping that it ensures an injury-free season. Not that it works that way all the time, but it often does.

This being the first domestic season after the IPL, I'm told there will be a lot more people following the cricket this year as some of the domestic players have become household names after their performances in the IPL. Apparently people would want to know a lot more about these newborn stars, and therefore would follow their progress even when they're playing for their respective state sides instead of their franchises. I'm also told that all this attention would put more pressure on the guys to perform in the domestic circuit this year.

If this turns out to be the case, all of us who have been playing first-class cricket for empty stands so far would be very happy indeed. We'd be delighted if instead of having to look for our names in the newspapers when we've done well, we find our performances played up nicely. And if all this adds a bit of extra pressure, we're more than willing to endure that.

This is the journey I'm going to embark on once again, but this year I won't be alone; I'll share it with all of you. Welcome aboard.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

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Posted by jigish on (September 11, 2008, 18:51 GMT)

You did an amazing job opening for India in Australia. Here's wishing you'll be back in the test team. I've become a fan of yours just for that alone. Really good blogs/articles are another reason I am a fan of yours. Good luck for season and hope you do well.

Posted by Sekhar on (September 11, 2008, 5:56 GMT)

Excellent piece, Aakash. I hope this becomes a diary of Indian domestic cricket that will be published in Cricinfo as and when the matches are played. As a fellow reader pointed out, I wish Indian domestic cricket is covered at a deeper level in Cricinfo. Keep it up. I look forward to the day when the Delhi Dadas, Viru, Gautam, Aakash and Ishant play together.

Posted by Ajit Menon on (September 10, 2008, 13:48 GMT)

Hope that you liked the bats we made for you (Reebok ones) and that you get loads of runs with these sticks this season. Best wishes always. Ajit

Posted by Madhu Kiran.R on (September 10, 2008, 12:06 GMT)

Hi Akash

You were one of those few unglamorus cricketer to have played for India with your sheer talent(but who cares talent, when you are good looking). I wish you were playing for India for long so that you dont get time to write blog, but that's a paradoxy for us. Well I have been reading your blog since HT days and was really missing it when it stopped. What a relief to see you write again. What's more its not ghost writing. Akash, All the very best to you for the first class season lying ahead and wish to see you in Indian Whites this year atleast,

Posted by Madhu Kiran.R on (September 10, 2008, 12:02 GMT)

Hi Aakash

You were one of those few unglamorous cricketer to have played for India with your sheer talent(but who cares talent, when you are good looking). I wish you were playing for India for long so that you didn't get time to write blog, but that's a paradox for us. Well I have been reading your blog since HT days and was really missing it when it stopped. What a relief to see you write again. What's more its not ghost writing. Aakash, all the very best to you for the first-class season lying ahead and wish to see you in Indian Whites this year at least

Posted by abhinav anil on (September 10, 2008, 11:37 GMT)

Dear Aakash, It's nice to read that you are still looking forward to a new cricket season. I am an avid cricket watcher and have liked your unselfish style of batting ever since u debuted for India against New Zealand in 2003. I really loved d way you took Brett lee's blows on your body at Melbourne in that Australia series, and still carried on. Your writing carries the same honest essence. I just hope u can find a way of getting back into the Indian Test side sooner rather than later. The team needs your solid batting, and amazing short-leg fielding.

Posted by T Rajendran on (September 10, 2008, 9:51 GMT)

One player who never got his due. Best short-leg fielder for India since Eknath Solkar and a man who did the dirty work at the top of the order. Unfortunately Aakash, getting yourself dirty and taking the blows for the team aren't enough in Indian cricket. Such cricketers are just one or two bad innings away from being dropped. Good luck though and I hope you harbour ambitions of playing for India still. Because you are still bloody good!

Posted by Matthew Wood on (September 10, 2008, 9:02 GMT)

Excellent piece Aakash. I look forward to reading your blog during the season. Wishing you every success and keeping my fingers crossed that international selection is just around the corner!!!

Posted by puja sharma on (September 10, 2008, 7:47 GMT)

Hey, it's always a pleasure to read to read what you write, wishing you all the very best for your book and above all, all the best for the game. Hope you get the much deserved opportunities soon... and maybe you could score 1300 + 1300 runs to finally get the selectors' attention and a place in the national side.

Posted by Mukund Rajan on (September 10, 2008, 6:08 GMT)

Aakash- Thanks for writing on the domestic cricket scene in India.Having played junior national-level cricket, I feel it's really unfortunate that domestic cricket is not given it's due. I had been to a Deodhar Trophy match between Central and North in Bangalore and it was shocking to see that only 50-60 people turned out to watch it.The IPL, which was held immediately afterwards, had 50-60 thousand people turning out every match.The standard of cricket will improve by leaps and bounds if people start taking interest in domestic cricket and realise that the pay and the money that it offers is much more competitive now. This will lead to more people taking up the game as a profession and not leave it due to financial constraints.

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Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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