Varun Chopra: Championship to be close again, says Bears captain

Varun Chopra skippered the Bears in both their one-day final appearances, at Lord's and Edgbaston last summer
Varun Chopra skippered the Bears in both their one-day final appearances, at Lord's and Edgbaston last summer

Warwickshire captain Varun Chopra believes that this season's County Championship title race could once again prove a close-run thing.

Only twice in the 15 years since the Championship was split into two divisions in 2000 has the title outcome proved a one-horse race.

"It's going to be close again," Chopra said, ahead of the Bears' opener at home to promoted Hampshire on Sunday.

"I think the standard in Division One will be even higher," he told BBC WM.

"It could be down to who starts well and can get on a roll. Fine margins can affect results. We started poorly last year. I personally was slow at the beginning of last season.

Division One champions (and winning margins)
2014: Yorks (17 pts)2013: Durham (24.5)2012: Warks (24 pts)
2011: Lancs (11 pts)2010: Notts (most wins)2009: Durham (47 pts)
2008: Durham (8 pts)2007: Sussex (4.5 pts) 2006: Sussex (18 pts)
2005: Notts (2.5 pts)2004: Warks (16 pts)2003: Sussex (34 pts)
2002: Surrey (50.75)2001: Yorks (16 pts)2000: Surrey (20 pts)

"Yorkshire were very strong last season, Sussex have recruited quite well, Durham can always be dangerous. And there's even the sides who have come up. Hampshire have got a strong batting line-up."

Chopra, now in his sixth season at Edgbaston, was part of the last Bears team to win the County Championship in 2012.

And, having taken over as skipper from the injured Jim Troughton midway through last season, initially in a temporary capacity, he is keen to add to the one trophy he has already lifted as Bears captain, the T20 Blast on home soil at Edgbaston last August.

"We're just looking to improve on what we did last year and be in contention again in all four formats," he added. "It's just about raising levels of intensity and out in the middle.

Chopra on Jeetan Patel
Following Jeetan Patel's selection as one of Wisden's five cricketers of the year, Bears captain Varun Chopra paid his own tribute to the former New Zealand Test spinner. "He's been an unsung hero for us the last few years," Chopra said. "But he's a top guy who always gives 100 per cent with bat, ball and in the field and it's great for him to get the recognition he deserves."

"We've got a pretty settled squad. It helps if you get good characters in the dressing room. We have a quiet confidence, but it means nothing now. It's where you are in September that counts. We've got a chance, but so have eight other sides."

Warwickshire are the only of the 18 counties who will not have had the benefit of a first-class fixture under their belts when the Championship season starts, this week's three-day meeting with the students of Durham MCCU having been deemed a non-first-class fixture.

But the Bears batsmen have used the time out in the middle well, opener Ian Westwood (unbeaten on 155), Sam Hain (85), Tim Ambrose (64), William Porterfield (59) and Laurie Evans 52 and Rikki Clarke (43) getting decent first-innings scores.

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