The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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It’s been an emotional afternoon, says Chopra
- Delhi opener needs idol Atherton’s qualities to flourish at the highest level

Rajkot, Oct.4: Three weeks ago, Akash Chopra wasn’t sure where he stood. Of course, he had recovered from surgery on the right knee, but didn’t quite know when would be his next chance to press for a Team India berth. The season launching Cha-llenger Trophy, after all, had come and gone...

That’s when the national selectors decided to give the Delhi opener not one but two opportunities before the start of Team India’s 2003-2004 commitments: The right-handed Akash was picked for both the Board President’s XI and India A. Today, after scores of an unbeaten 103 and 66 against New Zealand, he earned his first big-time call-up.

That Akash was set to make the XIV for the Ahme dabad Test was reported by The Telegraph yesterday.

“On learning of my selection, I thanked God and, then, thought of my parents (Shyam Lal and Shashi)... It’s been an emotional afternoon,” Akash remarked, speaking exclusively on conclusion of the India A-New Zealand game.

So, come Wednesday and he will be making his Test debut. Predictably, the excitement has already taken root. “Oh, that’s the ultimate... The biggest challenge... In fact, I’ll be judged only on how I perform in that match... Now onwards, that unbeaten hundred in Vizag and the 66 here won’t matter,” Akash said.

His opening partner, incidentally, will be state-mate Virender Sehwag.

Acknowledging that consolidating his position would be tougher than having got there, Akash continued: “Staying at the top is the more difficult bit... But, then, I’m neither short on confidence nor determination... It’s in my hands to make the most of this break...”

Akash, who turned 26 last month, was chosen unanimously. However, there was “some discussion” about the merits of Sadagopan Ramesh (who scored 110 in India A’s only innings) and Sanjay Bangar.

In a nice gesture, Ramesh — out of favour for two years — warmly congratulated Akash. For his part, the Delhiite labelled Ramesh a “fluent player.” Both featured in that 164-run partnership yesterday, putting India A on the road to taking a lead in the three-dayer which ended today.

Given that the business part of his career is merely days away, it’s just as well Akash idolises former England opener (and captain) Michael Atherton. Indeed, he will need Atherton’s qualities to survive — and flourish — at the highest level.

We wish him well.

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