“So, who else is a Parshavi Chopra fan?” tweeted Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin as India’s women’s U-19 team inched closer to its maiden World Cup title.
The emotions were running high at Senwes Park in Potchefstroom as India bundled England out for just 68 in the final. Parshavi took two wickets and, along with Titas Sadhu and Archana Devi, put her team in command.
The senior team had come within striking distance of winning a World Cup on a few occasions, but those campaigns ended in heartbreak. So, when the youngsters put England on the mat, millions of Indian cricket fans had prayers on their lips and hope in their hearts.
And Ashwin’s tweet — coming in around seven o’clock on that January evening — instantly resulted in thousands of shares. Just like the seasoned Indian spin ace, the cricket fans, too, were in awe of young Parshavi’s brilliance.
The young leg-spinner claimed 11 wickets in the tournament, emerging as the second-highest wicket-taker, just behind Australia’s Maggie Clark. In the course of the tournament, the soft-spoken Parshavi often did away with the conventional leg-spin and served up a few unplayable googlies, which earned praise from her opponents and seniors.
And she certainly had a huge role in guiding India to a title win in the U-19 World Cup. The 17-year-old was roped in by the UP Warriorz at her base price of Rs 10 lakh for the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League, and she did not disappoint.
Breaking into the final XI in a star-studded side, Parshavi featured in four games and claimed three wickets, including those of international stars Ashleigh Gardner and Hayley Matthews. Her ability to find breakthroughs at crucial junctures impressed many. Alyssa Healy, the captain of Warriorz, lauded the youngster, and former India captain Jhulan Goswami, too, seemed optimistic about her future.
Parshavi Chopra had a great outing with UP Warriorz in the WPL.
| Photo Credit: PTI
“There have been quite a few young players who have proven their talents in the WPL, and leggie Parshavi was one of them. There’s huge potential, and the more she plays, she will earn the experience and be ready for the next level,” Goswami says.
Parshavi’s efforts at the junior level have earned her a ticket to the U-23 camp at the National Cricket Academy, and she wants to improve her craft gradually. “The WPL has been a huge learning experience for me, where I got to interact with so many legends. Each of them has taught me a thing or two, and I want to execute those learnings in my game as I move ahead,” says Parshavi.
Cricket did not come to her naturally. She started off as a skater, clinched a silver medal in the U-14 Uttar Pradesh Skating Championships, and was also a 100-metre sprinter in school. This was before her father, Gaurav Chopra, who played cricket at the club level in Bulandshahr’s Sikandrabad, a small town in Uttar Pradesh around 95 km from Delhi, enrolled her at the Yuvraj Singh Centre of Excellence (YSCE) in Greater Noida.
That was in 2017, and a few months before joining the centre, Parshavi watched the entire Women’s World Cup — where India reached the final — and was hooked to the game. From skating, her world soon revolved around cricket and there hasn’t been any looking back since then.
“Even though I was into skating, my family was very interested in cricket. My grandfather, father, and uncle have played local-level cricket. When I got inspired by the Indian women’s senior team after the 2017 World Cup, they supported my decision to play the sport,” Parshavi says.
Initially, she wanted to be a fast bowler, following in the footsteps of Goswami. But Vishal Bhatia, her coach at YSCE, encouraged her to bowl leg-spin, given her slender build. And as she continued with the sport, Parshavi would watch old videos of Shane Warne and start looking up to the late Australian spin great as her idol. “I make it a point to watch old match videos of Warne and how he dominated the opponents. Every time I watch those matches, they help me understand match situations better, and I have tried imbibing a few of Warne’s tricks,” she says with a smile.
While Bhatia and JP Nautiyal, another seasoned coach, worked on Parshavi’s progress, her father Gaurav, too, ensured that she played regular cricket at the local level. “Papa would take me in and around Delhi and NCR to play local-level matches so that I got enough game time. Initially, I would play those tournaments with boys, but gradually, as we got to know more about local women’s tournaments, I started playing in those competitions,” Parshavi says.
And playing in different conditions helped her overcome the fear. “ Mujhe darr nahin lagta hai (I am not scared), whatever the situation. Even in crunch time, I stay calm and focus on my job,” she says.
In the WPL, too, she had a similar approach. Taking on Gujarat Giants, the young leggie used the wrong’un to dismiss Gardner and Hemalatha Dayalan in pressure situations. “I never look at my opponent, no matter how big a player she is. I just stick to my basics and execute the plans. That was the same mindset in the WPL,” she says.
“When I returned from the U-19 World Cup, I knew that the standard would be much higher in the WPL, so, I prepared accordingly. Along with my coaches, I worked on target bowling and also planned when to use the googly…”
During the tournament, she picked the brains of Deepti Sharma, her teammate at Warriorz. “Deepti didi is also from UP, so we bonded pretty well, and it was a great opportunity to be with someone of her stature,” she says.
A bit of an introvert, Parshavi broke into the Uttar Pradesh women’s U-16 team at 12 and graduated to the State’s U-19 team in due course. In the 2019–20 season, she claimed 20 wickets in the Women’s U-19 One-Dayers for Uttar Pradesh. Even during the COVID-19-induced nationwide lockdown, Parshavi’s father, Gaurav, prepared a pitch at home for a single wicket. “Papa has supported me throughout my journey. During the lockdown, he ensured that I had enough training at home. My brother Raghav was also part of the UP U-16 camp, so we trained together at home during that time. My coaches would also connect over video call and help me with their suggestions,” Parshavi adds.
Parshavi Chopra with her parents. She credits their unflinching support for her development as a player.
| Photo Credit: KRISHNAN VV
After winning the U-19 World Cup, Parshavi travelled to Ahmedabad with her teammates for a felicitation programme organised by the BCCI, where they had the opportunity to interact with Sachin Tendulkar. “Sachin sir told me to back myself and stay focused. He said, ‘Your journey has just started, and there’s still a long way to go.’”
Even Parshavi understands she has a lot to prove before breaking into the senior India team, but buoyed with confidence after enjoying success in the WPL, she wants to give her hundred per cent. “My ultimate goal is to play for India, but for that to happen, I need to perform consistently at the domestic level,” she says.
Parshavi has a chance to make the cut for the senior women’s team in the next couple of years, especially with the 2024 T20 World Cup scheduled in Bangladesh and the ODI World Cup in India in 2025. The spin-friendly nature of the subcontinent pitches will bolster her chances of getting picked.
A few years ago, when Gaurav, who works in the real estate sector, moved to Greater Noida from Sikandrabad, he dreamed of seeing Parshavi in Indian colours. The daughter has already made the dad proud with some quality performances at the U-19 level and is now waiting in the wings with the hope of breaking into the big league!