Essex will upset teams in Division One claims experienced batsman Varun Chopra
PUBLISHED: 08:00 06 April 2017
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29-year-old discusses what Chelmsford-based club can expect to face in the top-flight and their mentality
Varun Chopra believes Essex can surprise a few teams in the County Championship Division One this season and backed their talented squad to avoid relegation.
The Chelmsford-based club have gone straight back down to Division Two on the previous three occasions they have earned promotion.
And even though this is Essex’s first time back in the top-flight since 2010, one of their most experienced players feels they have enough ability to make their mark.
“We are not going into the season thinking we just want to stay up because that is a dangerous mentality to have,” said Chopra, who rejoined the club last year from Warwickshire.
“You have to be positive and try to win games and our coach Chris Silverwood is keen for us to make our presence felt in the division.
“We have a talented squad and if we can take our form from last year into this season then we could surprise a few teams.”
Chopra is one of the few players in the Essex squad with a vast amount of experience in Division One having spent the past six campaigns with Warwickshire.
The 29-year-old will be a beacon of knowledge for the youngsters at the County Ground, who will try to cope in the top tier for the first time.
“Quality is obviously the biggest difference between the two leagues and I think it is a lot more intense in Division One,” said Chopra.
“I didn’t play too much in Division Two last year, so maybe it is unfair for me to offer a comparison on the two, but it is going to be tight.
“Two out of the eight clubs are going to get relegated, so 25 per cent of the teams are going to go down, which is a big number.
“With that in mind, I think it is going to be a real scrap and fight to try and stay up because everyone wants to be in Division One.”
The County Championship has changed format this season, so only eight teams are in Division One while 10 will be in Division Two compared to normally having nine in each.
A strong start could be key to Essex ensuring they do not spend the whole campaign fighting towards the bottom to try and survive.
Silverwood’s team have been boosted by the news that Alastair Cook will be available for the start of the season.
And Chopra is delighted that the ex-England captain can represent his county in the early part of the campaign.
Cook misses the Lancashire game with a hip injury, but it is hoped he will make the trips to last season’s runners-up Somerset (April 14) and champions Middlesex (April 21).
“It will definitely be good to have him available. He came away with us to Dubai in March and looked in good nick,” added Chopra.
“He is looking forward to playing some cricket after relinquishing the captaincy and champing at the bite to get out there.
“He has always loved playing for Essex, so will be looking to get us off to a good start before doing well again for England this summer.”
A top order of Cook and Chopra should strike fear into most bowlers in Division One and both will have an important part to play this season.
Essex’s Barking-born batsman has returned home permanently now and is determined to make sure his county remain in the top fight for a lengthy period of time.