Mike Holmans September 13, 2011

At last, Bopara and India perform

At last
22

At last. The London ODIs produced interesting cricket, matches which could not be summed up in the five brutal words “England bowled well, India didn't.” And in such a high-profile series, once the professional vultures had swooped on the carcase of a match there was precious little else for an amateur England fan to find anything of interest to write, let alone read.

What with the overwhelming win in Australia, the beating of Sri Lanka and the crushing of India, it's pretty clear that the England Test team is in very good shape. There are some issues about backup spinner, wicketkeeper and opening bat, but otherwise it's the same task as faces a leading Formula One team: how to tune the mechanism to make it work even better.

The ODI team, though, is very much a work in progress – with “progress” being a highly apposite word. Alastair Cook has won his first two series as official England ODI captain against the runners-up and winners of the 2011 World Cup: pretty credit-worthy for the poorest of that tournament's quarter-finalists. I'm sure that World Cup fatigue, the IPL and favourable home conditions have been factors which undermined the visitors, but it's still more than a decent effort by England. For those of us inured to perpetual mediocrity, it's even possible to be mildly encouraged.

One very obvious encouragement is that this has not been the customary going through of motions following a brilliantly successful Test series from England. They have shown commitment and energy and an overpowering will to win. Messrs Duckworth and Lewis have probably been of considerable assistance in keeping the scoresheet clean, but even irritated Indian fans can probably allow that England's lower order put in heroic end-of-innings efforts which showed they were very serious indeed about these games.

Another big plus for England is that the Lord's tie and Oval win were achieved without any assistance from Kevin Pietersen or Eoin Morgan. Of course India were depleted too, but KP or Morgan or both have been mainsprings behind almost every win achieved in the last couple of years. Given the surrounding talent, Morgan is an even more important component in England's team than Sachin Tendulkar in India's, so for England to win games without them is a little more than surprising.

Doing something of the job Morgan normally does has been Ravi Bopara. I marked him as having England potential about five years ago and have been moderately in favour of his inclusion in Test and ODI teams, a faith which has been only semi-requited so far.

In these matches he has batted intelligently, manoeuvring the ball around the gaps with a close eye on the required D/L targets, in both cases guiding the team to within a couple of yards of the finish line. It would obviously be better if he didn't get out just before the end, but it's certainly better than getting out before he has reached double figures.

What has upped my rating of him considerably is the way he reached his fifty at Lord's. He had virtually committed himself to playing the paddle sweep, but was able at the last split second to adjust and glide it down to fine third man when he realised the ball was on the wrong line for his original shot.

That is true improvisation. A lot of nonsense gets spouted about how KP's unorthodox shots are terribly inventive, as though he thought them up on the spur of the moment when in reality he spends months trying them out and practicing them in the nets before essaying them in a real match. The same is just about true of Morgan, though I think a few of his shots are played entirely reactively.

But that one moment from Bopara convinced me at last that he has the spark of magic in him. It's a similar spark to that clearly possessed by the likes of MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina. I find Raina's style, if you can call it that, pretty ugly to watch, but it's extremely effective: it seems to consist of deciding where he's going to play a ball from and then bringing the middle of the bat into contact with it as hard as possible without much interest in the method of achieving it. In other words, almost entirely improvisational. No England batsman will ever be quite that free-and-easy because survival on English county pitches and the English weather require some attention to be paid to technique, but we need a few more batsmen not too restrained by orthodoxy.

With Morgan unavailable for some time, I would hope that Bopara will retain his place. There have been false dawns from him before, but maybe his recent performances will convince him that he can trust himself in international cricket. My theory is that his obvious nerviness has been down to a sense of puzzlement that his international performances have largely failed to live up to what he believes himself capable of rather than because he doesn't believe himself to be good enough. I'd like to hope that he is just about to deliver the return on all the investment that has been made in him for 60 previous ODIs.

However, the upcoming series in India is likely to expose rather painfully the major problem with England's ODI team. They are pretty good at bowling in the first half of the innings, but they have very little idea of what to do once the opposition start teeing off. Ryan ten Doeschate's and Kevin O'Brien's spectacular assaults during the World Cup have now been matched by the devastating hitting unleashed by Dhoni, Raina and Ravindra Jadeja; it is clear that Cook has no more idea about what tactics to use or what fields to set than his predecessor had and that even if he did, he doesn't have much in the way of bowlers who can follow the plan – at least, not with any useful effect.

The other big worry is how the batsmen will cope with the lack of pace in the subcontinent pitches. They are pretty good at working the ball around for the ones and twos but neither Ian Bell nor Jonathan Trott, in particular, are used to putting the muscle into their shots usually required for boundaries in India.

It's going to be a long climb for England to become a seriously respected 50-over outfit outside their own back yard.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ska on November 1, 2011, 17:09 GMT

    I came here thinking this article was written after the India-England series expecting it to be sort of a Page 2 satirical article on Bopara - disappointed. Sorry, Bopara doesn't deserve another chance really. Cheers.

  • harry sandhu on October 18, 2011, 6:30 GMT

    now we are seeing the real face of this english side...completely outplayed by india in first twi one-dayers and am sure the next 3 one days won't be different too....cook being same as his predeccesors have been in india..england is no way comparable to indian team in india or else where..last summer was merely an accident for india and to seal the wounds of english crowd

  • Satyajit Bose on October 7, 2011, 8:46 GMT

    England think that they might be won this series easily but it was their over confidence it is not Englands pich it is India. It is very hard to won in home ground of india. So it is too tuff to win here.So English player's it is our time to defeat u.

  • Triple A on September 23, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Eng have so many injuries i there tour of ind if thy loose dont worry and wait for the return of their stars like kp and morgan.....

  • muhammad fahim on September 19, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    what OWAIS SHAH has to do to get back in England side?

  • Parth Tiwari on September 19, 2011, 10:37 GMT

    For them to face Indian team in India will be a daunting task..will test them the same as we have been tested outside the subcontinent.

  • windywind on September 18, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    broad played a key role in the whitewash of the Indian team in the test series and D/L played a key role in the whitewash of the Indian team in the one day series....there can't be a better series for the mediocre English team

  • archit on September 17, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    In last two one dayers dhoni ripped england's bowling attack helping india reaching a good total.I think the defeat was not due to the superb batting or fighting spirit shown by england but because of the lack of experience in indian bowling lineup.Had there been the likes of Zaheer Khan,Harbhajan Singh and yuvraj Singh results would have been different.Let them come to India and then its's gonna be real test of superiority when its IND real versus england

  • Blake on September 17, 2011, 8:52 GMT

    How does England lack a back up test wicket keeper, opening bat and spinner??? For wicket keeper there is Johnny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter, for Opener, Bairstow, Stokes or James Taylor could move up the order and do it or u have Michael Carberry who hit a 300 this season, for spinner there is Monty Panesar and simon kerrigan.

    [Mike: I said there were issues surrounding those positions, not that there were no candidates at all. We would almost certainly notice the drop in quality, which isn't the case when it comes to the pace bowling, for instance.]

  • SACH_ROCKS on September 15, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    KP was dropped as he had a poor run for last 2 years in ODI so he should not be considered as a missing player. The only player who ENG missed was Morgan. If you want apple to apple comparison let ENG send team with their 8 first choice players missing to IND tour and then we will see the true picture. IND won WC in ENG as well as in SA. Those were certainly not flat pitches. ENG has hosted world 4 times and they were in top 4 only once. In fact, since 1992, they did not qualify for top 4. As far as WC 2011, IND beat all previous World Champs except SA and ENG.

  • Ska on November 1, 2011, 17:09 GMT

    I came here thinking this article was written after the India-England series expecting it to be sort of a Page 2 satirical article on Bopara - disappointed. Sorry, Bopara doesn't deserve another chance really. Cheers.

  • harry sandhu on October 18, 2011, 6:30 GMT

    now we are seeing the real face of this english side...completely outplayed by india in first twi one-dayers and am sure the next 3 one days won't be different too....cook being same as his predeccesors have been in india..england is no way comparable to indian team in india or else where..last summer was merely an accident for india and to seal the wounds of english crowd

  • Satyajit Bose on October 7, 2011, 8:46 GMT

    England think that they might be won this series easily but it was their over confidence it is not Englands pich it is India. It is very hard to won in home ground of india. So it is too tuff to win here.So English player's it is our time to defeat u.

  • Triple A on September 23, 2011, 8:04 GMT

    Eng have so many injuries i there tour of ind if thy loose dont worry and wait for the return of their stars like kp and morgan.....

  • muhammad fahim on September 19, 2011, 20:58 GMT

    what OWAIS SHAH has to do to get back in England side?

  • Parth Tiwari on September 19, 2011, 10:37 GMT

    For them to face Indian team in India will be a daunting task..will test them the same as we have been tested outside the subcontinent.

  • windywind on September 18, 2011, 10:33 GMT

    broad played a key role in the whitewash of the Indian team in the test series and D/L played a key role in the whitewash of the Indian team in the one day series....there can't be a better series for the mediocre English team

  • archit on September 17, 2011, 9:22 GMT

    In last two one dayers dhoni ripped england's bowling attack helping india reaching a good total.I think the defeat was not due to the superb batting or fighting spirit shown by england but because of the lack of experience in indian bowling lineup.Had there been the likes of Zaheer Khan,Harbhajan Singh and yuvraj Singh results would have been different.Let them come to India and then its's gonna be real test of superiority when its IND real versus england

  • Blake on September 17, 2011, 8:52 GMT

    How does England lack a back up test wicket keeper, opening bat and spinner??? For wicket keeper there is Johnny Bairstow and Craig Kieswetter, for Opener, Bairstow, Stokes or James Taylor could move up the order and do it or u have Michael Carberry who hit a 300 this season, for spinner there is Monty Panesar and simon kerrigan.

    [Mike: I said there were issues surrounding those positions, not that there were no candidates at all. We would almost certainly notice the drop in quality, which isn't the case when it comes to the pace bowling, for instance.]

  • SACH_ROCKS on September 15, 2011, 20:01 GMT

    KP was dropped as he had a poor run for last 2 years in ODI so he should not be considered as a missing player. The only player who ENG missed was Morgan. If you want apple to apple comparison let ENG send team with their 8 first choice players missing to IND tour and then we will see the true picture. IND won WC in ENG as well as in SA. Those were certainly not flat pitches. ENG has hosted world 4 times and they were in top 4 only once. In fact, since 1992, they did not qualify for top 4. As far as WC 2011, IND beat all previous World Champs except SA and ENG.

  • AA on September 15, 2011, 16:36 GMT

    SACH ROCKS is obviously a die hard Indian fan. I very much respect the Indian team for the way they played in the WC. But its always been a problem for India playing on foreign pitches not only in England but else where too. it might take some time but i am optimistic about the future of this young English side which has proved more than a handful for the Indian side. Mind you, this isn't the best team England can put up. If the English side can put up good performances at home, well, it certainly works. Its been working for India for way too long.

  • Deep on September 15, 2011, 16:28 GMT

    Fair analysis, without taking sides. Credit where it's due, without KP, Morgan and Broad's unfettered hitting in lower middle order - ENG have done well to handle the tense chases. Rain or no rain, they wanted to win more, and IND were ragged after a long winless tour. In subcontinent however, the humidity will test their best for fitness, and often muscling boundaries are the energy saving ways, if not merely run-scoring. All ENG bowlers would have to master reverse-swing, cutters and be more cautious about length balls to fare better in the subcontinent.

    It's strange to see people saying it's unfair comparison. IND won the WC in flat wickets of home as well. Despite being an Indian fan I have to recognize, in English conditions ENG have certainly out-thought and outplayed IND, whatever be the factors. Also, if you are skilled for the longer format - you can always adapt to shorter versions. Raina proves, the reverse isn't always true.

  • Rahul on September 15, 2011, 16:27 GMT

    India have not performed this summer - the results speak for themselves. England have managed to dominate at the right moments and have depth within their team. It can be argued that the Indian team have been depleted through the numerous injuries to their star players. To be without Zaheer, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir, Laxmann, Ishant and the Little Master is a serious body blow to both Morale and the nucleus of the team. However, to rely upon two bowlers solely to spearhead the pace attack is a risk - Although the emergence of Praveen Kumar as useful swing bowler has been great. I just hope that India are thinking about methods to bring in new blood into the team, remiscent of the 20-20 world cup winning squad, full of Ranji trophy youngsters - the new crop! Only time will tell but one can expect Englands Tour of India to not be such a 'walk in the park' for the visitors.

  • SACH ROCKS on September 15, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    I think it absolutely unfair to compare just 1 Eng player out to that of 8 IND players out of series from WC winning team. Even with C grade IND team Eng A is struggling to beat them. That speaks volume about ENG ODI quality. My previous comments were not published as I criticized the blogger. It seems the author does not want to publish opinions criticizing his article which is shame as we want to see all opinions just not those who agree with the blogger.

  • moin on September 15, 2011, 7:46 GMT

    I believe India are more comfortable in the 50 over format because of the youth abd power hiting talent in the team.Hence they play as a unit and not depend on any star.It is the opposite in the tests where they have weaknesses and depend on specific players to pull them out of trouble and when those stars fail;the result is the England series.If India is serious about the future of it's test team and ranking,it is time they looked to find talent and give it enough time to fill the shoes of the existing veterans.They might lose a few matches but eventually will get the results .In Dhoni they have a good captain and with Kohli as his deputy the future seems assured.

  • khalid on September 15, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    I am hundred percent sure india will be revenge in home series against England

  • MMK on September 15, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    Excellent article. I would add that Andy Flower has made a huge difference to this England team. All and sundry are agreed that England were the better prepared team for this series. Knowing AF, he will work his team hard to be prepared for Indian conditions well before the first international (Test or ODI) commences.

  • NairUSA on September 14, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    If England keeps playing as they are doing now, Team India will have a big problem on their hands, even in India. There is no replacement for fitness, skill and commitment. The Indian players will need to work pretty hard to regain these attributes with a liberal dose of luck to win the ODI matches this year.

  • Richard S on September 14, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    I'm not convinced by Bopara, and don't think I ever will be. He reminds me, in his nerviness and sheepish looks, of Graeme Hick. He undoubtedly has talent, but so did Hick who himself had some decent knocks at international level but in the long run wasn't up to it. I believe Bopara is the same, every now and then he is bound to get a decent score, like his 96, but the dips in between are too many and too long. England can put together a tidy ODI side, at least in batting, specifically in England, but I doubt we will ever be No.1, it just doesn't suit our style. Although Kieswetter has had a decent run in this series I would like to see us play Cook, Pietersen, Trott, Bell, Morgan, Butler (wk), Patel, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson. If Bell continues to falter in ODI's then James Taylor has done enough to deserve a go and if we are after power hitters then Tom Maynard, who could pass as a middleweight boxer, and Rory Hamilton-Brown, instead of Patel, have shown potential.

  • Libin Varghese on September 14, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    I think, despite of the injuries for the key players, india have performed reasonably well. The likes of rahane, patel, jadeja have steeped up to the occassion. The series outcome would have been different, had the rains stayed away in the first and fourth ODI. The approach and resilience of dhoni in the absence of big names in the indian batting line up is appreciable. I am eagerly looking forward for the performance of eng in india, when they face full strength indian line up..

  • Sheikh Usman Nadeem on September 14, 2011, 7:10 GMT

    I think this currently played Eng vs Ind series has very clearly pointed in the right direction specially for Indian cricket. Indian cricket is too much focussed on commercialization over past few years, and the focus has been everything but the game itself. Specially, with IPL and others, Indian cricket has become more of a limited overs slog. However, spirit of the game demands patience, quality, elegance in execution which clearly is lacking.

  • Imran Khan on September 13, 2011, 19:53 GMT

    Nice article Mike I think patience is the difference between both of the sides in this series. At tense situations England have dealt with the pressure in a more sensible manner.Plus Bopara has looked calm and very mature. Good to see that this wasn't a one sided encounter like it has been throughout the summer but the T20 mindset of Indian players has again costed them especially their fielding on crucial stages has been horrible......

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  • Imran Khan on September 13, 2011, 19:53 GMT

    Nice article Mike I think patience is the difference between both of the sides in this series. At tense situations England have dealt with the pressure in a more sensible manner.Plus Bopara has looked calm and very mature. Good to see that this wasn't a one sided encounter like it has been throughout the summer but the T20 mindset of Indian players has again costed them especially their fielding on crucial stages has been horrible......

  • Sheikh Usman Nadeem on September 14, 2011, 7:10 GMT

    I think this currently played Eng vs Ind series has very clearly pointed in the right direction specially for Indian cricket. Indian cricket is too much focussed on commercialization over past few years, and the focus has been everything but the game itself. Specially, with IPL and others, Indian cricket has become more of a limited overs slog. However, spirit of the game demands patience, quality, elegance in execution which clearly is lacking.

  • Libin Varghese on September 14, 2011, 8:37 GMT

    I think, despite of the injuries for the key players, india have performed reasonably well. The likes of rahane, patel, jadeja have steeped up to the occassion. The series outcome would have been different, had the rains stayed away in the first and fourth ODI. The approach and resilience of dhoni in the absence of big names in the indian batting line up is appreciable. I am eagerly looking forward for the performance of eng in india, when they face full strength indian line up..

  • Richard S on September 14, 2011, 8:54 GMT

    I'm not convinced by Bopara, and don't think I ever will be. He reminds me, in his nerviness and sheepish looks, of Graeme Hick. He undoubtedly has talent, but so did Hick who himself had some decent knocks at international level but in the long run wasn't up to it. I believe Bopara is the same, every now and then he is bound to get a decent score, like his 96, but the dips in between are too many and too long. England can put together a tidy ODI side, at least in batting, specifically in England, but I doubt we will ever be No.1, it just doesn't suit our style. Although Kieswetter has had a decent run in this series I would like to see us play Cook, Pietersen, Trott, Bell, Morgan, Butler (wk), Patel, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Anderson. If Bell continues to falter in ODI's then James Taylor has done enough to deserve a go and if we are after power hitters then Tom Maynard, who could pass as a middleweight boxer, and Rory Hamilton-Brown, instead of Patel, have shown potential.

  • NairUSA on September 14, 2011, 17:56 GMT

    If England keeps playing as they are doing now, Team India will have a big problem on their hands, even in India. There is no replacement for fitness, skill and commitment. The Indian players will need to work pretty hard to regain these attributes with a liberal dose of luck to win the ODI matches this year.

  • MMK on September 15, 2011, 6:41 GMT

    Excellent article. I would add that Andy Flower has made a huge difference to this England team. All and sundry are agreed that England were the better prepared team for this series. Knowing AF, he will work his team hard to be prepared for Indian conditions well before the first international (Test or ODI) commences.

  • khalid on September 15, 2011, 7:39 GMT

    I am hundred percent sure india will be revenge in home series against England

  • moin on September 15, 2011, 7:46 GMT

    I believe India are more comfortable in the 50 over format because of the youth abd power hiting talent in the team.Hence they play as a unit and not depend on any star.It is the opposite in the tests where they have weaknesses and depend on specific players to pull them out of trouble and when those stars fail;the result is the England series.If India is serious about the future of it's test team and ranking,it is time they looked to find talent and give it enough time to fill the shoes of the existing veterans.They might lose a few matches but eventually will get the results .In Dhoni they have a good captain and with Kohli as his deputy the future seems assured.

  • SACH ROCKS on September 15, 2011, 15:06 GMT

    I think it absolutely unfair to compare just 1 Eng player out to that of 8 IND players out of series from WC winning team. Even with C grade IND team Eng A is struggling to beat them. That speaks volume about ENG ODI quality. My previous comments were not published as I criticized the blogger. It seems the author does not want to publish opinions criticizing his article which is shame as we want to see all opinions just not those who agree with the blogger.

  • Rahul on September 15, 2011, 16:27 GMT

    India have not performed this summer - the results speak for themselves. England have managed to dominate at the right moments and have depth within their team. It can be argued that the Indian team have been depleted through the numerous injuries to their star players. To be without Zaheer, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Gambhir, Laxmann, Ishant and the Little Master is a serious body blow to both Morale and the nucleus of the team. However, to rely upon two bowlers solely to spearhead the pace attack is a risk - Although the emergence of Praveen Kumar as useful swing bowler has been great. I just hope that India are thinking about methods to bring in new blood into the team, remiscent of the 20-20 world cup winning squad, full of Ranji trophy youngsters - the new crop! Only time will tell but one can expect Englands Tour of India to not be such a 'walk in the park' for the visitors.