On 7 April 2005, India took on New Zealand in the semi-finals of the Women's World Cup in Potchefstroom. This was the third successive edition in which the Indian team had reached this stage of the tournament. On the previous two occasions, they had fallen short against Australia in 1997 and then against New Zealand in 2000.
One of the few players to have featured in those two losses and would be part of the 2005 semi-final was Anjum Chopra. The left-handed batter had gotten out for low scores in the final four matches in 1997 and 2000. This would have made her extra determined before the 2005 semi-finals.
In the 2005 semi-final against New Zealand, Chopra walked out to bat at number three in just the second over of the innings. This time though, she was wasn’t walking back to the pavilion without making a meaningful contribution. She had to work hard for her runs, scoring 44 from 110 deliveries and providing great support for captain Mithali Raj who’d go on to score an unbeaten 91. The duo’s 66-run partnership for the third wicket gave India a good platform to reach 204/6 in their 50 overs.
In reply, the defending world champions were bowled out for 164 and India had reached the Women’s World Cup final for the first time. It was a historic moment and Chopra had played her part, and it was especially impressive how she had bounced back after the setbacks at the same stage of the competition on the previous two occasions.
The partnership between Chopra and Raj was also symbolic because they were the mainstays of the Indian batting line-up during the time. As a partnership in ODIs, they scored 1946 runs together which is the fifth-highest for any pair. No Indian partnership in women’s ODIs has scored more runs together to this day.
Individually, Chopra had a superb career too. Only Raj and Jhulan Goswami have played more matches and only the former has scored more runs in women’s ODIs for India than Chopra. In 127 ODIs, the Delhi batter made 2856 runs which included 18 fifties and one century. She was, in fact, the first Indian woman to feature in 100 ODIs.
It was not just as a batter that Chopra excelled during her playing career. She was at the forefront of a momentous moment for Indian cricket when she captained the team to their first away Test victory in 2002 against South Africa. She was also the top run-scorer for India in the match, scoring 80 in the first innings.
Four years later in Taunton would come another famous away Test win for India. This time against England and although Chopra wasn’t the captain this time around, she’d still have a big part to play. Her 98 in India’s first innings was vital to the team’s success in the Test – it was also her highest score in the format.
To this date, India have won only three away Tests, one of the reasons being that there are very few women’s Tests scheduled these days. And in two of those three Test wins, Chopra played a paramount role in India’s victory.
In a playing career that lasted just over 17 years at the international level, Chopra represented India in four ODI World Cups and two World T20s. In ODI World Cups, only Raj has scored more runs and more 50+ scores than Chopra for India.
Post her playing career, Chopra was part of a significant moment when she became a television commentator during the 2015 Indian Premier League. It was the first time that the franchise-based T20 league had women commentators calling the game for their worldwide television audience and Chopra was the only Indian among four former women cricketers who were part of the coverage.
While Chopra scored 3645 runs during her international career, her impact on the game over the years has been colossal. She is one of 11 women cricketers to have won the Arjuna Award and received the Padma Shri, India’s fourth-highest civilian award, in 2014. And in the years to come, you feel that she still has a lot more to contribute to the game in which she has been a pioneer on many fronts.