June 21, 1987, Barking, Essex
Right hand bat
Top order batter
Ilford County HS
By the time he scored a century on Championship debut in 2006, Varun Chopra had long been viewed as an opening batsman with a bright future. Only one man, Steven Peters, had scored a Championship century for Essex younger than Chopra's 18-years and 338 days, while he had also impressed as captain of England Under-19. He led England to a series whitewash over Sri Lanka in 2005 and was hailed by Graham Gooch as "a smart lad who works hard at his game and has a natural eye for a ball." Even an 11-0 defeat in Bangladesh for the Under-19s ahead of the 2006 World Cup did little to dim his promise.
But progress was fitful at Essex and, at the end of the 2009 season, he decided to reject the offer of a new contract and depart for a fresh start at Edgbaston. While his first season was hindered by a broken hand, he hit back-to-back double-centuries at the start of 2011 and was the only Warwickshire batsman to reach 1,000 runs in the Championship in every year between 2011 and 2013. Even in 2014, when he endured a modest start to the season, he finished it as the club's leading run-scorer in first-class cricket.
He also finished it as the official club captain. A regular deputy as Jim Troughton struggled with a chronic back injury, Chopra grew into a calm, assured leader who led Birmingham Bears to their first domestic T20 title in 2014 and the runners-up position in the other two competitions.
His own form was recognised with an England Lions call-up in 2012, the year he helped Warwickshire to the county championship title. While he slipped back in the reckoning after modest seasons in 2014 and 2015, as a captain, an accomplished slip fielder and consistent opening batsman in all formats of the game, he continued to press for a place in the international sides.
Life at Warwickshire turned sour in 2016. He lost the captaincy as Warwickshire put their faith in Ian Bell, whose England career had begun to falter and who was intent upon new ambitions, he subsequently lost his place in white ball and red ball cricket in turn and talk of a new contract was not forthcoming. As Warwickshire's leading run-getter in all formats for four of the previous seasons, Chopra, at 29, had reason to be mystified.
Essex, after a brief period on loan, grabbed the chance to take him back to Chelmsford. They won the Championship in their first year back in Division One, but Chopra's contribution was modest and, perhaps surprisingly, it was in T20 where he most excelled. It was more of the same in 2018 as he was dropped from the Championship team but impressed in white-ball cricket, and the following season he played no part in the club winning back their four-day crown. His 50-over form was superb, with three hundreds in five innings, but he lost his T20 place and went on loan to Sussex in mid-season, with his future at the club seemingly uncertain.
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