Champions Trophy 2013 May 3, 2013

How many lives for Bopara?

If Bopara had begun this season with a bang then a return would have been more understandable, but a Championship average of 23 is not compelling - even though his latest selection is for white-ball, rather than red-ball cricket

Ravi Bopara has previously talked about being a dog lover, but perhaps a cat would be a more suitable companion for him. After all, he appears to have nine lives when it comes to his England career.

England do not cast off players on a whim. It is a loyal, inclusive, set-up where snap judgements are rare. But Bopara is becoming this generation's Graeme Hick or Mark Ramprakash with the number of chances he is being given, in the hope that he will flourish as an international cricketer as many expected when he was a rare bright spot to emerge from the 2007 World Cup. In the six years since there have been fleeting suggestions that he has cracked the top level only for his game to come tumbling apart as it did last summer.

Bopara's difficulties last year were not purely to do with cricket, and he had hinted at another breakthrough against Australia before his problems, but it was not the first time a seemingly fragile mindset had been disturbed.

A one-day tournament, which is almost a knockout from start to finish, is not a place for someone easily shaken off course although Paul Grayson, his coach at Essex, believes the mental side of Bopara's game is in good order. "I've seen him when he's been down. He's not down at the moment and I think he's due some runs," Grayson told BBC Radio Essex earlier this week.

When Bopara last played for England, bizarrely recalled for the must-win match against Sri Lanka in the World Twenty20, he looked bereft of form and confidence. It was not nice to watch. He needed some time away to clear his head, but when he returned to action during the winter he could not maintain a place for his Bangladesh Premier League franchise although he enjoyed slightly more success (190 runs at 27.14) in South Africa's domestic Twenty20.

If he had begun this season with a bang then a return would have been more understandable, but a Championship average of 23.60 is not compelling - even though his latest selection is for white-ball, rather than red-ball cricket.

His recall for the Champions Trophy suggests he was going to be there all along. His bowling, which became more effective as his batting slumped last year, has clearly had a persuasive impact on Geoff Miller and Ashley Giles - and it was impressive against Australia and South Africa last year - but it would be stretching the point to suggested he could be regularly entrusted with 10 overs even in English conditions.

And, for all his ability (a word so often associated with Bopara), is he really needed at No. 7 behind Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler? His best one-day innings for England have actually been higher up - he averages 33.12 at No. 4 with five fifites in 19 innings and 34.37 at No. 5 - but it is very hard to see how he finds a place anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6.

As that suggests, being part of the 15-man squad could be the closest Bopara comes to actually getting in the team. Tim Bresnan and Chris Woakes should be vying for the No. 7 spot (Woakes edges it on batting, Bresnan on bowling) and Joe Root has slotted almost effortlessly into one-day international cricket, showing a versatility to play a variety of innings.

But regardless of whether Bopara actually plays, it is another significant decision in the early days of Giles' one-day team. He has not been afraid of putting his stamp on the side after assuming control from Andy Flower in January having previously dropped Craig Kieswetter and Jade Dernbach. The form of that pair had made it clear they needed a break from the international stage, whereas the form of Bopara has not convinced that he deserves another opportunity and although a skill of selecting is looking beyond the numbers his career is more than a fair sample size.

Everyone will wish Bopara the best, of course, but there are plenty of doubters that need convincing. His lives are running out.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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