England news June 26, 2014

Bopara 'empty' at Test non-selection


Ravi Bopara admitted he woke up feeling empty the day after England's ODI series against Sri Lanka finished.

While Bopara still cherishes playing for Essex, he has tasted life on the bigger stage and knows that little else compares to the thrill of representing England. Waking in his hotel room the day after the ODI series ended knowing that he wouldn't be required for the Investec Test series against Sri Lanka was, he says, "a huge anti-climax".

"A lot of the other lads were going off to prepare for the Test series," Bopara told ESPNcricinfo. "They were excited. They were talking about it. They still had a buzz. And I wasn't involved. I woke up feeling this hole inside me knowing that England was over for me for a bit and I was going back to county cricket. It's really hard to accept.

"Look, I love playing for Essex. I really do. But there's nothing like playing for England. It's the ultimate. And once you've experienced it, it's very hard to accept anything less."

But Bopara accepts that his Test form has not been adequate to warrant his continued selection. While there were, as he puts it, "glimpses" of what he can do, an average of 31.94 after 13 Tests is modest for one so talented.

"I feel frustrated," he says. "I've not been able to show my full potential to a wider audience. I was doing OK, but then the Ashes of 2009 didn't go well for me and I haven't got back in for any length of time.

"I've shown glimpses. But I know I haven't done myself justice and I really want to do it. I mean, I really want it. I want to play innings people remember. I know I can do that and I would love another opportunity. But there's no point hoping or moaning. I've got to make sure I do it by scoring heavily in county cricket and making it impossible for them not to pick me."

Such passion may seem at odds with the image of Bopara as laid-back to the point of being comatose. But whatever he used to be like, he feels the experience of spending time with successful people from outside the world of cricket has given him greater perspective and better tools for coping with the stresses and strains of life.

"I've been disorganised in the past," he says. "That's true. But it is the past. I'm working harder than ever now. I did feel, for a while, as if I lost all my energy. But I've rediscovered that. I'm honestly more determined and focused than ever.

"I was very lucky to spend some time with some successful people outside cricket," he says. "I don't want to say who they were, but I'm talking about business people. It wasn't organised by Essex or the ECB. It just happened, really, and it's lucky that it did.

"They showed me the habits and characteristics successful people need to have. They showed me how organised you have to be and how calm they were under pressure. They were so determined and so positive and the whole experience made me a better cricketer and a better, more honourable man. Why? Because now, if I say I'm going to do something, I do it. I've learned a lot."

"The experience made me a better cricketer and a better, more honourable man. Now, if I say I'm going to do something, I do it."

Bopara's last experience with the Test team ended after the first Test of the series against South Africa in 2012 when, for personal reasons, he felt a need to take a break from cricket.

"Being a cricketer is not like a normal job," he says. "If you work in an office you might leave home early in the morning and be back late at night, I know. But we go away for months at a time and that can cause a lot of problems. The schedule isn't conducive to normal family life. If there's something going on that needs sorting at home, well you've got to go and sort it."

But no-one should mistake Bopara's decision as a demonstration of any lack of commitment. "It's not exactly that I put cricket before anything else, it's just that it is who I am," he says. "Cricket makes me who I am. It's more than what I do; it's what I am. So it is number one for me. Family is more important, of course, but I wouldn't be me if I wasn't a cricketer. It's a non-negotiable part of my life. I have to put it first."

As one of the few men in the England set-up who developed as a player solely in the UK and without the help of the private school system, Bopara might also have a role in inspiring the next generation of young players into the game.

"There is so much talent out there," he says at a Chance to Shine event in Birmingham. "And there is so much love for the game. I was lucky in that my mum and dad played a massive part in my development. They took me to games, they encouraged me to train. They did whatever needed doing and I wouldn't have made it without them. Parents are the key.

"But role-models have a huge part to play, too. There has been a bit of a shortage of players from West Indian circles in the English game in recent years, so it's great to see Chris Jordan coming through. He is going to be a big star and hopefully he can encourage a lot more kids to play the game.

"Can I do that, too? I'd like to. I really would. I'm seeing a lot more kids from ethnic backgrounds in the grounds and if I can inspire one or two to take up the game, well, that would be brilliant."

Chance to Shine ambassador Ravi Bopara was visiting Bishop Challoner Catholic College for Yorkshire Tea National Cricket Week. Thousands of Chance to Shine schools all over the country enjoyed cricket-themed activities in the classroom and the playground. Visit www.chancetoshine.org to find out more and donate.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • syed on June 29, 2014, 10:53 GMT

    I think Bopara is not mentally strong. He always failed to win the match for England despite getting so many opportunities to finish the games.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2014, 10:36 GMT

    Ravi has probably missed his boat I'd reckon, what with Moeen and Stokes BOTH impressing that no.6 batting allrounder spot has set sail. England may even end up playing both of those guys at 5 and 6 and there is no way Ravi is going to push them out either with bat or ball. Just thinking about it, if England could get their best 4 bowlers sorted out Moeen and Stokes could round out a mightily impressive attack. I like Ravi but I'm not sure he'd be able to offer more than some of these really talented younger blokes coming through.

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2014, 8:26 GMT

    Decent stats for allrounder but he always fails to get England across the winning line he has been in that situation so many times, once he starts doing that he may be considered.

  • Peter on June 28, 2014, 7:31 GMT

    Yet another example of the poor leadership in English cricketing ranks - when will something positive and significant be done? My guess is it will take some years before they realize the depth to which they have fallen

  • Dummy4 on June 28, 2014, 6:08 GMT

    a player needs to backup his words... though it is too late for bopara i think he has a year more in hand for one last final hurah...

  • Cam on June 27, 2014, 14:53 GMT

    I still think he'd be a good pick for England, good player.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2014, 11:50 GMT

    @Zenek Szulc with Morgan it's pure blind faith, even I can't really back it up other than mentally he is far superior and the technical faults he had in the UAE seem to have been sorted (head ducking, foot spinning), doesn't mean he will bag test runs I admit, I would also suggest Bopara's runs came against weaker attacks and failed miserably against half decent attacks (Aus). But as @yorkshirepudding pointed out there are more ahead of Morgs now and rightly so. I certainly wouldn't want to see Morgan jump ahead someone like Taylor or Vince on the back of a few ODI 60s. Which is what Bopleviers want with Bopara, except he hasn't got even many of them.

    However isolating Bopara, he is not up to test standard, I've argued on many occasions whether he is an asset to England full stop. He and Broad won an ODI at OT in 2008 (?) keeping his nerve, since then I haven't seen much of him carrying a team over the line, which when batting at 4,5 or 6 he has to do. He's just not good enough

  • Nicholas on June 27, 2014, 11:34 GMT

    It's a good, emotive interview from Bopara. There's a lot of talk about how dispassionate and 'lacking in fight' us Brits are, and after certain performances by some of the key players over the recently concluded series, I CAN see why. But after the promising performances from the young(ish) newbies (Robson, Ballance, Ali...) + interviews like this from Bopara, it's nice to see that there is at least some passion & honour there at heart. It just needs to come out on show on the big stage (more often).

    In the shorter formats, it's Bopara's bowling more than anything else that interests me. It's amazing how effective that nagging, medium-paced, moving ball can be in the adrenaline-soaked shorter formats where fast scoring rates + scoreboard pressures keep you on your toes. Tests... I'd perhaps bracket Bopara in the 'stop-gap' player (along with guys like Woakes); hasn't really made the most of his chances and shown he can be a reliable asset with bat and/or ball, but a useful 12th man.

  • Cricket on June 27, 2014, 10:52 GMT

    Bopara is a short format player at best as he can be a sometimes useful 5th bowler . I suspect Bopara is one of those guys who felt his ability alone would carry him and Tendulkar's 'he's a special batsman' in the early stages of his career probably fed his ego and had the reverse effect. All the top players regardless of technique have had to work hard to get to the top because it's only through hard work that real talent is revealed and potential unlocked. Surely, he should have looked up successful cricketers first and sought their advice rather than from business people. In terms of tests, I don't see him making on either his batting or bowling and he's not a genuine all-rounder. i would have thought a couple of huge seasons with Essex and failures from the first and second choice middle order against India, which doesn't seem likely and maybe Bopara might be in the selector's thoughts.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2014, 9:56 GMT

    @Dan Lord

    One of my BIG issues is that people dismiss Ravi out of hand ("he's had his chance time and time again and he#'s blown it" etc) yet so many people seem to be under the impression that Morgan would be a great asset to the test side. Morgan has, for the record, played more tests than Ravi during a solid run in the team, has a worse record. He has shown no ability to consistantly deliver in FC games and whilst some will say "oh but Vaughan and Tresco etc didn't have good FC records either" i will take you back to the original point; Morgan has had 16 tests to prove that he can hack it at Test level, has shown that he is not up to the job and has shown no improvement in the domestic game.

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