As far as starting the year with a bang goes, Bulandshahr’s leg-spinner Parshavi Chopra is having a rollicking 2023.

First, at the inaugural edition of the ICC U19 Women’s T20 Cricket World Cup, the 16-year-old finished as India’s leading wicket-taker and the second leading wicket-taker of the tournament. She then became one of the 87 players acquired in the Women’s Premier League auction where she was lapped up by her state-based franchise UP Warriorz.

Her recent success was bound to send a wave of happiness in her house in Greater Noida. In a conversation with Scroll, she said, “The moment we won the World Cup is a top moment for me. It was the best feeling.

“Overall, I feel great and it’s a very proud moment for the family. To become winners of the inaugural edition of the ICC U-19 Women’s World Cup is a huge achievement. Then again, I will get to feature in the inaugural edition of the Women’s Premier League with UP Warriorz. I feel grateful because I myself beglong to UP.”

She added: “I will try to utilise this opportunity and give my 100%.”

Chopra was nine years old when she first played cricket. Eleven, when she transitioned from a medium-pacer to a leg-spinner, and thirteen when she gave her first trial as a professional leggie. What prompted her transition was watching the iconic Shane Warne’s performances on a loop, all day long.

Her love for the sport was nurtured in a passionate, cricket-loving household where her grandfather, Parshuram Chopra, a Zonal-level cricketer and father and uncles, who play club cricket, watched and discussed the sport all the time. Under her coaches JP Nautiyal and Vishal Bhatia, she got the guidance she needed.

“When I started cricket, I started as a medium pacer but I found myself watching a lot of Shane Warne videos. He is my idol, one can say. After watching him, I was drawn towards leg-spin and that is an art I wanted to learn. They say it’s cricket’s toughest art, after all. If you are able to master it then it’s really good,” said Chopra.

In India’s seven-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Super Six stage, Chopra’s 4/5 played a monumental role in reducing the Lankans to a meagre 59/9 in 20 overs. Equipped with a quick action, she doesn’t turn the ball much but her primary strength lies in control over flight. She has a variety of subtle variations at her disposal. Additionally, she is also a sharp fielder off her own bowling.

She reflected on the performance saying, “The four-wicket haul is my favourite. I was very satisfied after that performance. It was simple cricket for me, honestly. I did not think too much before bowling but after that day, I was determined to not just sustain my performance but better it.”

Chopra also took two wickets in the final against England taking up her tally for the tournament to eleven wickets.

According to Chopra, her biggest learning at the World Cup will come in handy at the WPL. The exposure to bowl in high-pressure, crunch situations at a big stage has helped her realise that she must have the ability to adapt her bowling and mindset according to the batters on crease. In fact, among the high-profile names that will feature in the WPL, she’s looking forward to work on this ability and maybe bowl to India captain and Mumbai Indians’ Harmanpreet Kaur.

Speaking about her preparation before joining the Warriorz camp, she said, “The training has intensified since coming back from the World Cup. With the WPL approaching, one has to go up against so much experience, the top players in the world... my practice is now done keeping in mind that I have to bowl to them. In my mind, I am now thinking. ‘If I were bowling to a specific player, how would I bowl’?’

“But I am not pressurising myself about who I will have to face either because I have to do my job with the best of my abilities, no matter what. I will continue to follow my approach of playing simple cricket,” she added.

Chopra has had a whiff of success early and one can get carried away in that process but there is a sense of maturity in how she approaches the game and life, in general. She acknowledged the importance of having a stable support system in order to do well in an environment that is as gruelling as Indian cricket.

“Cricket is a kind of game that makes you see more downs than ups. And I too have faced such moments when I started playing. I believed in enjoying the game since the start and make sure I continue doing so but often, when I was not satisfied or when I was bowling well but not getting wickets or if I was simply not bowling well, I found myself thinking about whether I did the right thing choosing cricket. But thankfully, I had a lot of family support and their positivity along with my coaches kept me going. Even if I have bowled a bad ball, they will console me saying that it wasn’t all that bad,” she said.

She added: “Family’s support is crucial, I think. Earlier, the backing did not come that easily for many people. They were afraid of sending their kids out to pursue it but that is changing now. In fact, I think with our win at the U19 World Cup, more parents will be inclined towards sending and supporting their children for outdoor sports.”

When Chopra learned about Warne’s sudden death in March last year, she was met with a difficult realisation.

“I dreamed about meeting him, discussing the art of leg-spin and understanding all about his mindset,” she said.

But with a platform like the WPL and surrounded by seniors like Deepti Sharma, Alyssa Healy, Grace Harris, Sophie Ecclestone, Shabnim Ismail, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Tahlia McGrath and Devika Vaidya, some of Chopra’s dreams are coming true and she is on the path to fulfill some more.

She said: “I believe in taking small steps, one at a time. The next goal is to do well at the WPL, of course. Whenever I get the opportunity, I want to do my best and eventually, the dream is to play for the senior Indian team.”