Former India opener Aakash Chopra has formally announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. Chopra, who last played a first-class game over two years ago, for Himachal Pradesh against Punjab in Dharamsala, told ESPNcricinfo he was "satisfied and happy" with how his career turned out.
"I have always been very proud of my fielding, but I dropped a couple of catches in the slips in what turned out to be my last first-class game," Chopra said. "I was the captain of the side and had to take myself off, from that position. That's when I felt it's not right, perhaps the time has come. If I am not able to take catches in slips, then perhaps I am a bit of a liability."
Chopra played ten Test matches for India from 2003 to 2004 as Virender Sehwag's opening partner. He scored two half-centuries and was dropped after India were beaten by Australia at home in the 2004-05 season. Although he scored heavily in domestic cricket in subsequent seasons, the selectors didn't consider Chopra for a recall though he did return to the 'A' team.
"I should have achieved more, that is the feeling that will always linger. At the same time, I don't think I was supremely talented," he said. "Some of my peers were far more talented and I was the fortunate one who ended up playing for the country. I would always remain the 245th player to represent India in Test match cricket."
Chopra shared a few valuable partnerships with Sehwag on India's tour of Australia in 2003-04, when he was assigned the task of seeing the shine off the new ball, a role he ended up being typecast in.
"I played a certain brand of cricket - low risk, high percentage. When that same role was assigned to me at the highest level, I embraced it. When you play for India, you obviously want to do what the team wants. I got typecast and for a while I started believing that's the only way I can play. That enjoyment got lost a little bit when that role was assigned to me."
Chopra counts the first Test in Brisbane against Australia in 2003, when India took the first-innings lead, the win in Adelaide later on in the tour and being part of the opening partnership with Sehwag in Multan in 2004 where his state-mate went on to score India's first Test triple-century as his most cherished moments in the game.
"At that point of time cricket had come out of the sports pages and was featuring on the front pages of most dailies," he recalls.
While his Test career didn't take off, Chopra had a successful run in the first-class game, making over 10,000 runs and 29 centuries over 15 seasons for Delhi, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh. His proudest achievement at first-class level was contributing to Rajasthan's first-ever Ranji trophy win in 2010-11 and repeating the feat next season.
"A century on debut for Delhi was very special because when I was growing up playing for Delhi was the be all and end all," he said. "Winning the Ranji trophy is something to be very proud of. It happens over 5-6 months with some known and some lesser-known players and it doesn't come easy."
The 37-year old Chopra already has a successful media career, which includes his work as a columnist and analyst for ESPNcricinfo, and also plans to run his own cricket academies. He launched one in Jaipur while announcing his retirement.
"Over a period of time, expectations take over and you forget why you started to play the game," he said, advising young batsmen. "Eventually remember you started playing because you loved the sound of the ball hitting the bat. There are some fundamentals to being a long-form opener, follow those. There are no short-cuts to success."