Five Bay Oval Centuries lead the way in a new Bay of Plenty milestone
A Bay of Plenty batsman, who has belted five centuries at the Bay Oval, has become the first Bay player to score over four thousand runs for his province.
Bharat Popli wrote his name into Bay of Plenty Cricket forever, when he broke through the magical four-thousand run barrier, against Counties Manukau on Sunday 22nd January 2023, at the Te Puke Domain.
Ninety-one years after Bay of Plenty made their New Zealand Cricket minor association debut against South Auckland (in a Hawke Cup match) Bharat Popli became the first Bay player to post 4000 runs.
Bharat Popli, was awarded BOPCA Player Number 494, when he debuted for Bay of Plenty against Hamilton in a Fergus Hickey Rosebowl match, played on the 6/7 December 2008.
Few Bay of Plenty Cricket players have made such an auspicious start to their representative career, with the (then Tauranga Boys College student) taking charge against the Waikato City side, at the Bay Oval. The scorebook showed that Bharat belted 113 runs to earn a coveted century on debut.
A further unbeaten 122 against Poverty Bay, saw the emerging star finish his initial Bay of Plenty season with 266 runs from just four games, and his team's highest score.
Bharat's early promise continued, with three-figure scores coming from his bat in a recurring pattern as he marched up his province's all-time runs list each season.
Four further tons at the Blake Park Number One ground, kicked off with an unbeaten 108 against Counties Manukau in late 2010, before 126 not out, verses Waikato Valley. An extremely valuable neat one hundred, played a big part in Bay of Plenty retaining the Hawke Cup in 2013, while his top dig at the Bay Oval was 135 in the encounter with Counties Manukau in February 2019.
Bay of Plenty had a cricket year without parallel in the 2012/13 season, taking the Hawke Cup from Hamilton and then defending and then repelling challenges from Manawatu, South Canterbury and Canterbury Country.
The 2012/13 NZC Minor Association season saw Bay of Plenty smash a multitude of records to smithereens in their 13 encounters. A Hawke Cup record 701 runs in the Hawke Cup victory over Hamilton and ten team centuries were just part of the Bay of Plenty season roll of honour.
Sitting at the top of the action was Bharat Popli who smashed 733 runs, to finish second behind Joe Carter's record breaking 779 season runs tally. Bharat posted two three-figure scores, with 126 not out against Waikato Valley and a neat one hundred runs in the Hawke Cup defence with Canterbury Country.
The only potential chink in the Popli armour could be found without the addition of a 150+ score in his record book. This was well and truly put to rest in the Bay of Plenty match-up with Counties Manukau in the 2020/21 season. Bharat gave a batting masterclass, to finish with 191 to his name, putting him in sixth place on the all-time highest score list.
The march to become the first Bay of Plenty batsman to post four thousand runs continued unabated. Currently Bharat has belted a record 13 centuries, ahead of Joe Carter (8) and well clear of several players with four tons on their ledger card.
His new BOPCA all-time record of 4017 runs, sits clear of Mike Wright (3950) and Peter Drysdale (3826), who along with Bharat are the only Bay players to score three thousand plus runs.
What makes the Bharat Popli feat of scoring over 4000 runs, even more remarkable, is that for much of his career, he has juggled professional commitments with ND with unavailability for Bay of Plenty selection.