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How Parshavi Chopra ventured from skating to googlies and found her feet in WPL

At one point, she wanted to be a fast bowler. Now she is troubling the best batters in the world with her legspin

S Sudarshanan
S Sudarshanan
Parshavi Chopra sent back D Hemalatha and Ashleigh Gardner in successive overs, Gujarat Giants vs UP Warriorz, WPL 2023, Mumbai, March 20, 2023

Parshavi Chopra sent back D Hemalatha and Ashleigh Gardner in her successive overs against Gujarat Giants  •  BCCI

Young Parshavi Chopra was told a few things about legspin. That she will have to risk getting hit and only then the chances of picking up wickets will rise. That it is wickets that will earn her laurels and not the low economy rate.
In UP Warriorz's game against Gujarat Giants earlier this week, Ashleigh Gardner and D Hemalatha had added 93 to keep Giants on track for a tall score. Both had displayed their range of strokes against seam and spin, but Warriorz captain Alyssa Healy trusted Chopra to bowl at the death.
Chopra was part of India's squad that won the Under-19 T20 World Cup in January this year. There she had bowled Sri Lanka's Vishmi Gunaratne with a googly. The batter had danced down towards the off side but the ball spun past her pads to hit the stumps. But a majority of her 11 wickets in the tournament came off legbreaks.
Between that World Cup and the WPL, Chopra worked on the googly and grew confident to use it more frequently.
Now, bowling the 17th over of the innings against Giants, Chopra went for wickets instead of trying to stop runs. She tossed the first ball up to Hemalatha outside off. It was the wrong'un and Hemalatha didn't pick it, holing out to long-on. On the first ball of the 19th over, her last, she once again flighted the googly to entice Gardner out of her crease and got her stumped.
It was just the second appearance for Chopra in the WPL and she already left a mark on those who hadn't watched her at the World Cup.
Vishal Bhatia, her coach at Yuvraj Singh Centre of Excellence (YSCE) in Greater Noida, just outside Delhi, credits Chopra's increased use of the googly to the target bowling sessions they had ahead of the WPL.
"Before the WPL, we were working on target bowling, bowling in [various] situations, and when to use the googly," Bhatia tells ESPNcricinfo. "She didn't bowl the googly much in the Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup. But now she is confident in bowling the googly and reading the batter well.
"You can be needed in the powerplay or the death overs. We worked on what ball to use when and how to read the batter by looking at her stance. I told her that you shouldn't play the name, but play the batter - it so happens you bowl to someone looking at their reputation - and the situation."
Chopra pursued skating in her younger days, just like Yuvraj, but was drawn to cricket listening to her father, uncle and grandfather talk. She watched the 2017 Women's ODI World Cup on TV and wanted to don the national colours after seeing India's narrow, heart-breaking loss to England in the final. Her father, Gaurav, identified her interest and got her enrolled in the coaching centre where Bhatia and later JP Nautiyal coached her.
"I never let her compromise with her cricket but I compromised on her studies," Gaurav says. "She was very good in her studies. But to achieve a goal or target in life, you have to focus on just that one thing. If you try and do multiple things, you won't get as much success."
At a YSCE summer camp in 2017-18, Bhatia came across Chopra who then wanted to be a fast bowler. But given her slight build, she was encouraged to bowl legspin. Her run-up and action had to be tweaked accordingly but once that was done, and she was able to generate spin, there was no looking back.
In the 2019-20 season, she picked up 20 wickets in the Women's Under-19 One Day Tournament playing for Uttar Pradesh. During the Covid-19 lockdown, her father left no stone unturned and prepared a pitch at home for single-wicket practice with assistance from Nautiyal and inputs over video calls from Bhatia.
"Her body was very flexible because of the stretching, which is part of skating," Nautiyal says. "Her wrist position comes naturally to her. We had to work on her lines and lengths. But she grasps things quickly and works really hard for hours together."
Chopra picked up eight wickets in the Under-19 T20 Trophy in October 2022, and was then selected for the T20 Challengers and the Quadrangular Under-19 series featuring West Indies and Sri Lanka. A good show at the Under-19 T20 World Cup in South Africa led her to be picked by Warriorz at her base price of INR 10 lakh.
The only girl child in the family, Chopra was fascinated after watching videos of Australia legspinner Shane Warne's bowling. She took an immediate liking to his action and was upset for a few days after he died last year. But through her steady rise and eye-catching outings in the WPL, she is keeping the flag of legspin flying high.

S Sudarshanan is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo