Bollywood film ‘12th Fail’, directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, has been making headlines for quite some time now. Be it the lead actor, Vikrant Massey or director Chopra himself, everyone has received a lot of praise and deserved accolades.
Away from this limelight, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s son Agni Dev Chopra is making a name for himself on a different pitch. Playing for Mizoram in the domestic circuit, the left-handed batter has struck five centuries and has notched 767 runs in four games.
Despite a busy schedule, Agni, who is a Yuvraj Singh fan. hasn’t missed out on watching his father’s masterpiece and labels it as his second favourite after ‘3 Idiots’.
In a chat with News18 CricketNext, the 25-year-old talked about his cricketing journey, bond with Arjun Tendulkar and Prithvi Shaw and lessons from Sachin Tendulkar.
Can you tell us about your journey? You come from a different family background, so how did cricket happen to you?
I have been very passionate about cricket right from a very young age like when I was 7-8. Initially, I went to Shivaji Park and then I joined MIG Academy. So, I guess, I was very passionate about the game and that has continued. I knew I wanted to do this when I watched the game.
How delighted is your family as you have been piling up heaps of runs?
I haven’t really had a chance to talk about cricket with my family as the Ranji Trophy season is on and we have been busy with our games. But yes, everyone at home is happy that performances are coming. I’m happy but I’m not satisfied. My goal is to take my team Mizoram to the Elite group, and play in the finals (in the Plate group). That job is still not complete and I want to achieve that goal. That is my focus.
How has been the atmosphere within the team?
Right from the very beginning, our goal has been to qualify. We have to be second or third in the tally. Look, the Hyderabad team is very strong and they’re expected to finish top. So, second and third-placed teams will play each other in the semis and first and fourth-placed teams will lock horns with each other.
So, if Hyderabad end as the table-toppers then the fourth-placed side will have to face them in the semi-final. Thankfully, we are most likely to finish at number 3. So, yeah, one of our goals is fulfilled. Our focus from the beginning was to help the side to win and take it to the Elite division.
You played age-group cricket from Mumbai and are now part of Mizoram. How has shifting base helped you?
I have played age group cricket from Mumbai and my dream was to play Ranji Trophy for the side as well. But that didn’t really happen. Though, I was there in the Ranji Trophy probables for Mumbai for quite a number of times. Last year in August, Mizoram had conducted a selection trial in NCA in Bengaluru.
I got the opportunity to attend that selection trial and luckily I was selected for the Mizoram team. It was a bit difficult decision at that point in time but I got a chance to play FC cricket and Ranji Trophy after shifting bases. Right now, I’m really happy that I took the decision.
What is your take on Mumbai’s cricketing culture?
Khadoos cricketer jo hota hai, vo Mumbai k maidano se hi banta hai. I guess that’s a very good thing actually. For instance, the runs I’m scoring are because I have grown up seeing that cricket culture only. Mumbai’s batting culture is very different. It’s about ‘khud k dum pe match jitana hai’. Every coin has two sides to it. There are only 11 players in the XI. So, it’s difficult to find that spot for yourself in the side. I personally know a lot of players who have left Mumbai and played for other teams.
Arjun is also one of the examples. He went to Goa and is now doing really well. There are positives as well as difficulties to it.
What regime do you follow during the season and in the off-season?
This has been a bit different season for me. This was probably the first time where I knew that I was going to get all the games in the season. What happens in Mumbai cricket is that with the kind of talent and options they have, you have to perform in almost every game because two off outings and you have to sit out. Here, my mindset was very clear and I had a bit different preparations as I knew that I would be playing the three formats. I began preparing myself the day I got selected for the side. Initially, it was T20 (Syed Mushtaq Ali) so, I prepared for that first and then for the other tournaments.
In between competitions, we used to get around three weeks’ time. So, I used to go back to Mumbai and practice there. Also, we had our training camp for the team as well.
See, a fitness regime in off off-season is a bit more intense because we can push ourselves a little more. When the matches are on, the fitness takes a bit of a back seat. We do focus on it but the intensity is more in off off-season in comparison to while the tournaments are going on.
Talking about the regime during the off-season—There is something called hypertrophy where you have to work on muscle endurance and muscle size. So, pre-season, the workout routine is around this. Also, we can push ourselves in running or weightlifting as we are not playing the matches.
During the games, we do train but it’s relatively a light session.
Do you also focus on bowling?
I do a bowl a bit but I’m more fond of batting. I bowl off-spin and get hit for runs. Though I pick 2-3 wickets here and there but yeah, I like batting more.
As you have played a lot of age group cricket with Arjun Tendulkar and Prithvi Shaw, tell us about your bond with both.
All three of us have been playing with each other since we were 10. We used to play for the MIG club in Mumbai. We have played the same tournaments for MIG and in U14, and U16 for Mumbai. I have played U19 with Prithvi (Shaw). In fact, me and Prithvi were roommates when we were playing U16 and he used to be the captain. So, we have grown together.
I’m very close to Arjun (Tendulkar). We used to go to school together and played cricket together as well. I share a very good bond with Prithvi’s father as well. We have spent a lot of time together.
Did you get a chance to take some lessons from Sachin Tendulkar? If yes, what are they?
Yes. I have had a chance to talk to Sachin (Tendulkar) sir about cricket and I have got a lot of lessons from him. The most important thing that he made me understand is the concept of belief. This is where I used to struggle earlier. This was during my U19 days. I had a goal at that point in time that I have to play for India U19 and West Zone. So I used to put some pressure on myself at that point of time.
What he suggested to me was that whatever you do in the practice that happens in the match. So, after that, I increased the level of intensity and focus during my practice sessions.
Who is your cricketing idol?
See, for the people of our age, Sachin sir has been our idol. But personally, I looked up to Yuvi Paji (Yuvraj Singh). I’m a left-handed batter and when I saw him in 2007, I had just one thing in my mind that I have to be like him. I have been an aggressive batter from the beginning.
He has been my idol. I have met him but we didn’t really get a chance to talk about cricket.