Fresh from scoring his first one-day century for the UAE, Shorye Chopra was named most valuable junior player for the third year in a row at the annual Shyam Bhatia cricket awards on Sunday night.
The 16 year old from the Dubai Model High School scored a century against Nepal in the semi-final of the Asian Cricket Council Under 19 Elite Cup in Malaysia earlier this month
He said that winning the award for the first time, in 2011, fuelled his dream of playing for the UAE.
"It was a great honour for me to receive this award from India's World Cup-winning captain, Kapil Dev, in 2011, and that really inspired me to play for the UAE," said Chopra after picking up his prize at the Indian Sports Club. Chopra meets a cricket luminary every time he receives the award - in 2012 it was Arjuna Ranatunge, Sri Lanka's World Cup-winning captain, who handed over the silverware.
Zaheer Abbas, the former Pakistan international, did the honours this time.
Chopra's knock in the ACC Elite Cup turned a new chapter in his cricket career.
"I would definitely rate the inning against Nepal as the best so far, because it is my first hundred in a 50-over-a-side format and in an international game," he said.
"It really has given me a good platform and I will always remember this knock for inspiration and as a turning point in my career."
His century came just at the right time, after he could muster only 51 from his first four innings in the competition.
"I was a bit nervous in the first game against Afghanistan. The first four innings of mine were pretty inconsistent.
"I was throwing my wicket away.
"After we qualified for the semi-finals, I sat down and thought about my past performances and decided not to get out in the semi-final against Nepal.
"I got message after message from all my coaches, friends and family to clear my mind of the past and look ahead for the next game. And Aaqib [the national team coach Aaqib Javed] had told me the same thing.
"I think it kind of helped me. When I went in to bat against Nepal, it was a struggle at the beginning, but once I settled down and hit a few boundaries the runs started coming."
Chopra - who was born in India but has spent most of his 16 years in Dubai - began taking an interest in the game at the age of six, after watching Rahul Dravid, the Indian great, on television.
"He has been my role model ever since," he said. "I have tried to emulate him as a player, because I like all his qualities as a cricketer. I wish I can play an inning like him."
Chopra was so enthusiastic that his father then enrolled him for coaching lessons from Shafiq Ali and Arshad Ali, the UAE internationals. He started playing for the school team in the Under 12 inter-school tournament when he was eight and scored a century in the following year.
Now a Grade 12 pupil, Chopra has to juggle cricket and his studies.
"It is quite hard to spend more time on cricket for me at this point," he said. "Yet I spend 6-7 hours every week. I have achieved good results in my 10 and 11 grades, and it is important for me to pursue my academic [studies], which is something to fall back on."
[ @SprtNationalUAE ]