'I'm desperate to make things right' - Bopara
Ravi Bopara knows his England axing during last year's Ashes was the make-or-break point of his career but believes he has emerged stronger after reclaiming a place in the one-day set-up.
Bopara was omitted from both of last winter's tours to South Africa and Bangladesh before returning for the World Twenty20 where he made one appearance when Kevin Pietersen flew home for the birth of his child.
He then reclaimed a one-day berth for the final match against Bangladesh at Edgbaston after Ian Bell suffered a broken foot and has now pushed Luke Wright out of the starting XI against Pakistan.
He certainly adds a classiness to the middle order that Wright has failed to bring, although is still trying to learn his role. His skied drive off Saeed Ajmal at Headingley, with 13 needed from 12 balls, almost gave Pakistan a route back into the contest, but Bopara is adamant he is a far more complete cricketer from the one who was dissected by Australia a little over 12 months ago.
"Experiences like that either make you a better cricketer, or they destroy you completely - I know for a fact they have made me a better player," he said. "Whenever I have played this summer, especially in one-dayers, I have felt I have been batting really well.
"It hasn't always been like that in the Championship - because the pitches have been terrible for a lot of matches. But the one-day wickets have been brilliant, and I've been striking the ball more cleanly than I ever have. I feel more positive, all round. I feel more of a senior player."
His poor Ashes series has left Bopara wanting to make amends but it's unlikely he'll be able to force his way into the squad for this winter's Australia tour with England's batting already well-stocked for options. Time, though, is on Bopara's side and if this year's series does pass him by he'll have plenty more chances to banish the memories of 2009.
"I am desperate to make things right," he said. "I would love to get the opportunity to do that. But I am not the sort of person now that likes to look too far ahead. My job is to go out and play against Pakistan at The Oval [on Friday] and help to win the series. If you look too far ahead you get ahead of yourself, and stop thinking about the important things you are doing now."
Having fallen out of favour with England he is now having to resume his career where there is space in the line-up rather than where he really prefers to bat at No. 3. There is unlikely to be any room at the top of the order in the near future, but Bopara is confident he has the skills to adapt to any role Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss want to give him.
"I am batting down the order at the moment, but fortunately I've always practised the skills you need to bat there - sometimes coming in during the last five overs - as well as batting at the top. I'd like to bat at the top of the order because that is where I have scored my runs for Essex. But right now, I don't think there is a spot there [for England]. The guys at the top are doing well, and we are winning - so there is no reason to change."
Part of Bopara's rehabilitation after last season involved travelling to New Zealand and being an overseas player with Auckland. He'd been offered the chance of an England Lions place, but felt a complete break from the international set-up was what he needed. And Bopara now believes a similar, if shorter-term, option can work for Pietersen after he agreed a two-week stint with the Dolphins in South Africa ahead of the Ashes.
"That is a very wise move," Bopara said. "The move I made to Auckland was very good for my game, and me as a person. I had time to myself, away from everybody and all the coaches. I loved being away, and doing things on my own.
"I've never really liked too much advice, or too many people having their input. I take advice, but prefer to work things out for myself.
I think Kevin is the same sort of person - and I think him going away to Natal will be a great move for him, and a great move for English cricket. I hope he then comes back into the Ashes, and shows how good a player he is."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo