Warwickshire batsman Varun Chopra intends to learn from the best as he prepares to join the England set-up in Loughborough next week before flying out to Sri Lanka.
Chopra, who has just signed a new contract binding him to Warwickshire until the end of the 2014 season, is in the Potential England Performance Programme squad which will spend ten weeks in Sri Lanka – three at a training camp and then, for the Bears opener and the other batsmen, seven weeks playing in domestic cricket.
The 24-year-old forced himself into the selectors’ thoughts last season with 1,178 championship runs at an average of 45.30.
He started spectacularly, in the first two matches becoming the first Warwickshire player ever to score back-to-back double centuries, and finished well with a ton against Hampshire at The Rose Bowl.
In that last match he added 188 with overseas signing Shiv Chanderpaul who came into the team late on and chalked up three centuries in five matches.
And former Essex batsman Chopra, right at the start of his international career, was hungry to learn all he could from one of the top players of his generation.
“I spoke to Shiv a lot as I think most of the guys did,” he said. “He is a quiet, unassuming guy but always ready to give advice if you want it.
“When he speaks you listen because he is top-quality. He has done it year in and year out and is a great example.
“He is the sort of player who had runs on the board before anybody has noticed. You can have all the shots in the world but it is all about understanding your own game, trusting it and playing within it.
“That’s what players like Shiv, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott do and that’s what I am working to get towards.
“I had a reasonable season this year but have to look to improve next time. This tour to Sri Lanka will be great because I will be allocated to a first-class side and play three-day cricket for them.
“It will be a really good test in the conditions on slow pitches against plenty of spin bowling. I will learn a lot and hopefully also be able to help out some of the other guys because I am one of the older players on the trip.
“It will be very hot out there so I should come back nice and fit and ready to go to Barbados with the lads on the pre-season trip and then hopefully have another good season for Warwickshire.”
Chopra’s elevation to the England set-up shows his name is in the selectors’ thoughts.
He remains utterly grounded, though, while admitting his decision to move to the Bears from Essex two years ago has worked out well.
“Sometimes you need to move on to get your career going again,” he said.
“That was the case for me and I am very happy with the move. I came into a good environment where you feel backed by the coaches and other players.
“It’s pleasing to get this recognition but it is just a small step. Warwickshire had a good season, finishing second, and I was their leading run-scorer so I thought I might have made a bit of an impression. Now I have just got to seize the opportunity and keep improving.”
Bears director of cricket Ashley Giles is happy to have secured Chopra’s future.
“Varun’s runs last season were instrumental to our push for the county championship and his place on the Potential England Performance Programme iss well-deserved,” Giles said.
“Securing a player of his calibre until at least the end of 2014 is a great boost to the squad as we look to build on last season.”