In Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s movie ’12th Fail,’ there is a song “Restart” that plays every time the protagonists Manoj Sharma (Vikrant Massey) and Gauri bhaiya (Anshuman Pushkar) fail to crack the UPSC exam. Although the song was written almost a year before Agni Dev Chopra made the switch from Mumbai to Mizoram, he feels a connection to the song from the movie directed by his father.
“There is a connection now but the song was written a year before I moved to Mizoram. I moved to Mizoram in 2023. But that line is applicable everywhere in life,” he tells The Indian Express.
Agni, son of filmmaker Vidhu Vinod and journalist Anupama Chopra, has scored five centuries in four games in the Plate Group, including 105 and 101 in the last game against Meghalaya
The 25-year-old has piled up 767 runs in four matches, with an astonishing average of 95.87.
Agni’s first love was cricket and not movies.
“When I was seven or eight, I started playing cricket. I was not passionate about films. Nepotism does exist in the film industry. I am not talking about just actors but also as a producer. My father could have got me an entry pass, but my heart was never in it,” Agni told The Indian Express.
Agni taking up cricket surprised his father, who loves the game and has produced “Ferrari Ki Sawaari,” a movie on cricket.
“My dad used to say ye kiska beta hai, mera beta toh nahi ho sakta (Whose son is this, he is certainly not mine).”
But the director-producer father keenly follows his son’s cricket career and even asks him about shot selection.
“He does ask ‘why did you play that shot, how can you get out like this? The thing about cricket is that everyone is a coach. Everybody knows cricket more than the cricketer does,” Agni said.
The bowling attack in Plate Group isn’t of the same quality as the Elite Groups but Agni, 25, was an accomplished junior batsman. He has led the Mumbai Under-19 team and was Mumbai’s leading run-getter in 2019-20 CK Nayudu Trophy with 760 runs, including a double hundred.
In the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, he scored a 45-ball 76 against a Jammu and Kashmir attack that comprised Umran Malik, Yudvir Singh, Rasikh Salam and Abid Mushtaq. All of them with an IPL contract.
“I remember my 201. It was against Bengal in Under-23s at Dadoji Kondadev Stadium. It was a turner. I would have been dropped if I hadn’t scored in that game. In the first three games, I had only scored a fifty. It was make or break for me,” he recalled.
However, he couldn’t break into the Ranji Trophy team.
“In July, the Mizoram had trials at the National Cricket Academy. I went for the trial and I was lucky enough to be picked. It was tough to leave my city but this was the best opportunity to play in the List A and first-class cricket,” Agni said.
Agni also had injury setbacks, a freak one two years ago saw him miss nearly three months of cricket.
“A week before the Under-25 tournament, I was fielding at slips in a club match and a ball landed in front of me and I tried to catch it but it was a little too far. The ball hit me on the ring finger of my right hand. My nail had broken from the middle. I was out for two-and-a-half months,” Agni said.
Two of his close friends, also cricketers, Arjun Tendulkar and Test capped Shubman Gill helped him cope during the difficult period. “Arjun and I have grown up together. We have played pretty much every age group together. We used to play for the same club as well. Both of them have had injury setbacks too. When I couldn’t move my finger at all I was wondering how I was going to hold my bat or catch or bowl. There were lots of negative thoughts. They made me understand that it is something (injuries) that you can’t control and it is just part of the game,” Agni said.
In 2019, Agni made the big decision to move out of his parents’ home. He moved in with Khushpreet Singh Aulakh, Gill’s trainer. Khushpreet felt that it would do Agni a world of good if he moved out of his comfort zone.
“When I was working in the KKR academy, I met Vidhu Vinod Chopra through Abhishek Nayar (former Mumbai cricketer). I train Shubman, so he asked me whether I could train Agni as well. My only condition was that Agni must get out of the comfort zone,” Aulakh said.
Agni said shifting homes helped him grow as a person.
“I moved out because everything was too easy, and comfortable, everything was on a platter. I was becoming too laidback.
Agni is pragmatic and does not want to get carried away because of his run-scoring spree for Mizoram.
Yes, I have scored five centuries but it doesn’t matter if we won’t be able to qualify for the Elite, that’s the aim.”