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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 8, 2013, 17:09 GMT

    Bopara should play in Bangladesh Premier League only.

  • John on May 6, 2013, 2:59 GMT

    @maximum6 on (May 4, 2013, 14:00 GMT), who here has hailed Wright as a saviour? Noone as far as I've seen. Praise of Wright is based primarily on his good showing with the bat in T20 over the last few years, both for England and in domestic leagues. He's probably been England's best T20I batsman lately. That is by no means a guarantee but is indicative that he could perform significantly better in ODIs than on previous occasions. Most people seem to agree that Bopara is the better option with the ball while Wright would be the better option with the bat, which does suggest that his bowling is a significant reason for Bopara's selection.

  • John on May 5, 2013, 20:57 GMT

    @Wayne Perry on (May 5, 2013, 19:14 GMT) When Trego bats without restraint he's a different animal from the one who tries to bat responsibly. Part of me quite likes it when Somerset players get ignored because it makes the team stronger

  • Dummy4 on May 5, 2013, 19:14 GMT

    The fact that Bopara has been picked with no form behind him continues to show that England still are not sure about who to play in the # 7 spot in ODIs. The ghost of Flintoff lives on.

    I still believe that Peter Trego is the best man equipped to fill the roll, too bad he is not on the selectors radar.

  • Rod on May 5, 2013, 1:47 GMT

    I greeted Bopara's selction with the shared shock horror of most England supporters, but after calming down, I realized it does knind of makes sense. First, England are out to win the trophy, so this is no time to be experimenting. Second, it's obvious he hasn't been picked as a top-order batsman; in fact it would take a couple of injuries for him to get a look in in the top six. (This is quite a come down for someone who was once hailed as England's long-term solution to the test number three position.) It looks like they want the option of either a batting all-rounder or a bowling-all rounder at number seven, and the only alternatives for the batting all-rounder would be Patel, Wright, or Ricky Clarke. Clarke would fall into the experimental category, and Patel's bowling is unlikely to either wicket-taking or economical. For me, it would have been a close thing between Wright and Bopara, but Bopara's bowling has been pretty econimical in ODIs, and his batting is more versatile than W

  • Edward on May 4, 2013, 19:46 GMT

    @Richard: I can only assume that the Taunton factor is putting them off from selecting Hildreth, along with the fact that his form's tailed off slightly over the past season or two, from my impression.

    @jonesy2: Bopara, for all his unsuitability for international cricket, is a better player in FC cricket, and probably even in Tests and ODIs, than Shaun Marsh and Glenn Maxwell, to name but two. Let's not forget that Marsh averaged less than 3 at home against a dire India attack last year, and Maxwell looked hopelessly, and at times, comically out of his depth a few months ago.

  • smd on May 4, 2013, 15:17 GMT

    Bopara and rohit sharma two luckiest cricketers of this era

  • Michael on May 4, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    I suspect Bopara is in for his bowling in the early season. Maybe he would be harder to face than Patel,though the latter with the ball is reasonably successful. It has to be that. Neither player has done it with the bat,while Patel is less mobile in the field. Around the place I see comments and votes for Wright. The absurdity of Wright being hailed as some sort of ODI Messiah is crystal clear. If neither Patel nor Bopara deserve the spot then Wright should be miles away from selection. Completely off the wall. I see my antipodean friends are here to spread despair and hopelessness like a boomerang. Reality check required! Are they playing the Test matches in A+E or the physio's room? Thanks for the humour. Anyway I think the selectors have missed a good time to pick an excting prospect failing all else,and Bopara's selection shows they are not thinking right.

  • Bryn on May 4, 2013, 13:12 GMT

    this sort of thing just illustrates how much of a pathetic joke England are and that they don't just lack depth but they lack any sort of talent at all. bopara would have claim to being the worst player to play international cricket in the last 5 years except England keep it hard to tell with the selections of other players like jade dernbach, tim bresnan, stuart broad and probably more i cant think of right now who could all claim to be just that

  • Robert on May 4, 2013, 13:10 GMT

    Randy, it really is time you got yourself a decent set of blinkers that at least allow you to see something - anything!; part of the reason many Australian, South African and other national players have improved and rounded their game is that they have had time on the English County circuit. Part of the reason Australia have such a dismal side is that T20 has made a mockery of the Sheffield Shield, and players get little experience under diverse conditions. I aint a one-eyed Englishman (indeed I haven't lived there for many years) but I hold it my right, my duty and my pleasure to point out utter balderdash when I see it.

  • No featured comments at the moment.