Chopra is out to stake a claim

IT S A big season for Essex opening batsman Varun Chopra this year, and he is only too aware of it, WRITES MIKE SIMMONDS. The talented 21-year-old, who became the youngest Essex player to hit a Championship hundred on debut back in 2006, has been, by his

IT'S A big season for Essex opening batsman Varun Chopra this year, and he is only too aware of it, WRITES MIKE SIMMONDS.

The talented 21-year-old, who became the youngest Essex player to hit a Championship hundred on debut back in 2006, has been, by his own admission, in and out of the side since then.

But, the selectors have kept faith with Chopra and by handing him the opening berth against Derbyshire last week, signalled their intentions to give him every chance of making the spot his own.

"I've got first shot this year, so I want to take my chance, stay there and I want to do well in that position," said Chopra, who made 39 and 56 as Essex drew a rain-affected match.


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"I have been a bit in and out of the side and haven't got into a good rhythm before, but this year I'm not going to get too far ahead of myself.

"I want to take each ball as it comes, not fret about things and win as many games as I can for Essex."

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While many county players honed their games in warmer climes over the winter, Chopra made the decision to stay at home and work extensively on his own game.

"I could have gone abroad, but I decided to stay at home and work as hard as I can," he said.

"I've been really focused and working with Paul Grayson and Graham Gooch on a few technical aspects of my game.

"It's mainly been about getting into a rhythm with the bat and preparing to bat for long periods of time, maintaining concentration, which is important.

"I just want to start the season well and get some runs under my belt."

Chopra has also shown his form in the one-day arena this season, with a sparkling 76 in the Friends Provident Trophy victory against Northamptonshire at the weekend.

Since making his one-day debut in June 2006, he has only played 21 matches and seven Twenty20 game, a statistic he is keen to improve on.

"Again, I was a bit in and out of the side last year, so I want to get in and with Ravi (Bopara) playing for England, there is a spot available.

"They are big shoes to fill, but hopefully I can come in and do well."

It is likely that Essex will be without Bopara for long periods of the season, as the former Hainault & Clayhall man could enjoy an extended run with the England team in all forms of the game.

"Ravi is a very good player, I think he definitely deserves everything he gets," said Chopra.

"You could see last year he was a level above county cricket, he also got a hundred in the West Indies too, so I'm very pleased for him.

"The likes of him, James Foster and Alastair Cook are Essex through and through.

"Hopefully, when they get their chance, they will do well."

Chopra's immediate thoughts though are on his own future as an opening batsman and also helping his county finally win promotion to Division One of the Championship after six years in the wilderness.

"We've been there or thereabouts and have seemed to fall away towards the end and put in some bad performances," he said.

"If we can maintain our form this time, then we are confident we have what it takes to do well.

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