"Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in"
- Bill Bradley
If there was one name in the RR squad that understands the importance as well as the impediment of persistence, it would be Prashant Chopra. The Himachal batsman, who has been a consistent performer in Ranji cricket over the last few years, went unsold in three consecutive IPL auctions despite him knocking on the door of the tournament with his thumping accomplishments.
Doubt must’ve plagued his mind, insecurity must’ve beset his confidence.
However, the talented batsman did not give in to the negatives and focused on his energy, and his talent, in improving his game. As it often happens in sport, the hard-working athlete saw the light after a long and lugubrious nadir. The Rajasthan Royals picked him up at the auction earlier this year.
In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda, Chopra spoke on his state of mind before the announcement of his name in the auction pool.
"Nervousness was certainly there. It had been three years and I kept going unsold. Now, I am very happy to be a part of the RR squad. They were in touch with me and have been monitoring my performance through the years. I was nervous but the confidence was also there, as I have been performing in the domestic circuit consistently for the past three years," he said.
Despite facing disappointment in the IPL auctions over 36 months, the 25-year-old kept making waves in domestic cricket. Scoring a triple hundred on his birthday and becoming the first batsman from Himachal Pradesh to cross that milestone are some of the numerous achievements of this burgeoning batting talent.
"Scoring over 1000 runs last season and starting this season with a triple-hundred gave me a lot of self-assurance going into the auction. I was batting very well, which is why I was hoping to be drafted into a franchise this season," Chopra stated, with his voice ringing with buoyancy and hope galore.
The Rajasthan Royals is a franchise that is known to entrust youngsters with meaningful responsibilities and provide them with a spate of opportunities to announce themselves to the cricketing world. Chopra, with a prodigal bat-swing and a plethora of shot-making options on the off side, might as well have found the right milieu to hone his talents in.
Talking about the same, he said, "Rajasthan is one team that gives you a lot of opportunities. Their USP is that they bring in a lot of youngsters and these youngsters get to prove their mettle on the biggest stage.”
Being led by the calm disposition of Ajinkya Rahane with an extravagant character like Shane Warne at the sidelines makes up for a unique experience for the Rajasthan squad. This combination of fire and ice will help Chopra in particular, who, along with being a technically-gifted batsman, bowls leg-spin regularly.
“Jinxy is an extremely cool person and is very nice at heart. Having such a big international performer as our captain is incredible because there is a lot to learn from him. Observing his behaviour and the prepares for the game will help me inculcate a lot of positive habits from him in the next couple of months.
"Warne, on the other hand, is one of the greatest cricketers to have ever played the game. Having him as a mentor is obviously a big thing. The fact that you can interact with such a person, and that he is actually monitoring you in the nets is invaluable. Everyone knows he is good, that’s why he’s here. However, getting a pat on the back from people like him and Rahane is really great, because it boosts you up even more,” he added.
While getting into an IPL squad is a massive achievement, being a part of the playing XI is the end game for a run-of-the-mill neophyte, who is trying to make his name through the gigantic tournament. However, this youngster is not giving into consternation in this area, and instead, chooses to focus on amplifying and enhancing the positive results for his team any which way.
“What’s in my hand is doing my best in the practice sessions and grab every opportunity that comes my way. I don’t always think about my spot in the team. Of course, everyone wishes to play the game, but the first thing I would want is for the team to win. I will give my hundred percent even if I’m going on the field for an over or two. My ultimate goal is to help the team win.
"Things like ‘I should win’, or ‘I should play’ are not on my mind right now. Of course, there are some incredibly talented batsmen in the mix here, but I am confident in my ability as well. I will just focus on giving my everything to take my team to victory,” Chopra said.
RR picked up the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, and D’Arcy Short in the auction this year. Speaking of these overseas stars with veneration and admiration, Chopra revealed that they have made special efforts to bond with every player in the squad, while being provenances of cricketing conduct for the youngsters in the dressing room.
“They are very nice and friendly people, and it’s great to interact with them. We joke around with them and they’re very easy to approach. It is not like they have any sort of negative attitude towards us just because they’re from different countries.
"Looking at them in the nets and observing their approach to the practice sessions has been the biggest plus of having them around. The youngsters in the team look up to them as there is so much we can learn from them. I observe their technique and temperament closely during the net sessions.
"When they were brought into the dressing room for the first time, they were the first ones to go up to everyone and greet them personally. There was no awkwardness in the team as they came to us and interacted with us in a very grounded manner,” he said.
RR have had an on-and-off season so far and would hope to turn the tables in their subsequent fixtures. More than anything, their dignity is on the line, and they must rise above the pandemonium of the past two years to end the second innings of their IPL journey, extracting respect and admiration from aficionados of the game.
Talking about the mindset of the squad before every game, he said, “What matters the most in T20 cricket is the team combination. You need to work as a team on the field. No plan can be executed unless you combine well with your teammates. We agree on everything as a collected group on individuals and we go on the field with single-minded focus on our plans. All of us are walking in the same direction.”
On a personal level, Chopra must be feeling like a kid in a chocolate factory right now. With a coalition of personalities to learn from and an array of qualities to imbibe, these six weeks have brought him face to face with a steep and rising chunk of his learning curve.
“We want to do really good as a team and the ultimate goal is to win the trophy. My main goal on the personal level is to imbibe as much as I can from this experience to shape my career afterwards. There is so much to learn here, not only from the big players but also the domestic cricketers. I want to perform for this franchise and contribute to its victories, but I also want to focus on growing as a cricketer through the next six weeks,” he said while speaking about the same.
The youngster's will to see the picture and put his team's success over individualistic ambitions and his single-minded focus on improving as a cricketer shows a maturity that is way ahead of his years. Somewhere along the line, he might get the opportunity to step into the RR playing XI. Will his performance showcase seamless maturity on the field as well?
Only time will give the answer to that question. However, as they say, "Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in."
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