The Lowdown - Ravinder Bopara August 17, 2006

Making a World Cup claim

The Lowdown on Ravinder Bopara, the Essex allrounder, who has been named in England's 30-man one-day squad for the Champions Trophy
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With so much cricket played these days it is often difficult to keep track of who is who and what they are doing. In this weekly feature Cricinfo will take a look at one player who is making the news, whether at the highest level or as an aspiring talent, and tell you what they are all about. This week, it's the turn of Ravinder Bopara, the Essex allrounder who has found place in England's 30-man one-day squad.



Ravinder Bopara started out as a batsman but his bowling has given him a second string and pushed his England claims © Getty Images
On September 3 last summer, the first stages of New England sprouted at Chelmsford as Alastair Cook slammed a double-century off the Australians, and we all know what happened to him. But in Essex's total of 502 for 4 there was a forgotten man who helped Cook add 270 for the second wicket. Ravinder Bopara struck 134 against an attack including Brett Lee and Stuart MacGill but was inevitably overshadowed by his partner. Now, though, after making it into England's provisional 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy, Bopara is one step closer to joining Cook in the national team.

Two solid county seasons have put Bopara on the international radar, especially in the one-day front given England's current lack of direction. He has all the makings of a cricketer that Duncan Fletcher would like. He bats in the top six, bowls skiddy medium-pace and isn't afraid to operate at the death, plus he's a livewire in the field. There are few players with a water-tight claim to England's one-day team and Bopara has the attributes to slot into an allrounder's role.

He has developed with some wise heads around him at Chelmsford. There is a lot of a young Ronnie Irani, his captain at Essex, in Bopara's cricket with his combative attitude and always-at-it spirit in the field. On the batting front he has been able to learn off two greats in Graham Gooch and Andy Flower. Bopara is adept at playing the slow bowlers and a lot of that has been gained from their tutelage.

It is no coincidence, either, that he is developing into a useful death bowler with the young-at-heart Darren Gough part of the Essex ranks. Bopara has a low-slung action which, while making him hittable at times, also enables him to spear in the yorkers and slower-balls that were such a part of Gough's armoury. Bowling is still his weaker area but that isn't a surprise as it has been a later addition to his skills. Throughout his England Under-19 career and early first-class days Bopara was primarily a batsman. It's only in the last couple of seasons that his bowling has become strong enough to be used in a fourth, and occasionally third, seamer role.

The 2005 season was when Bopara's talents started to catch the eye. He scored 792 runs in the County Championship (and that doesn't include his century against the Australians) and when international calls hit the England A squad in West Indies, Bopara was drafted in. He didn't enjoy the best of times in the Caribbean, but hasn't let that affect his efforts this season. In the Championship he is averaging 38, with a career-best 159, and produced impressive figures in the C&G Trophy averaging 42 with the bat and 30 with the ball.

Essex have provided players from both ends of the career spectrum in England's 30-man squad. Bringing up the rear in the elder statesman category is Gough and he will be hoping the World Cup is a final hurrah. Bopara is just starting out, but if he has a career half as long as Gough's he'll have done himself proud.



Bopara has had a taste of England A action during the summer © Getty Images
Timeline

June 2002
Makes first-class debut against Northamptonshire at Northampton

February 2004
Part of the England Under-19 squad at the World Cup in Bangladesh

September 2005
Hits 134 against the Australians at Chelmsford and adds 270 with Alastair Cook

March 2006
Tours West Indies with England A

April 2006
Hits a career-best 159 against Glamorganat Cardiff

May 2006
Is part of the England A team that beat Sri Lanka by 10 wickets at New Road

July 2006
Selected for the England A team to take on Pakistan at Canterbury

Current form
Like most of the Essex side he won't remember Twenty20 finals day with any great joy as he scored just 5 and went for 38 runs in his four overs against Nottinghamshire. But he bounced back in the recent Pro40 match with 54 off 34 against Sussex to show why the selectors are interested. A maiden five-wicket haul in the current Championship match against Surrey is evidence of his improved bowling.

What he says
"My strength is obviously my batting but what goes along with that is the fact I bowl a bit in one-dayers - wicket to wicket and trying to apply pressure - and also my fielding, which is now a very strong part of my game. As a batsman I feel my ability lies in being able to bat during the middle of the [one-day] innings, work around the spinners and having a dash at the end. I'm not the sort of guy who will hit it out of the ground so I look for the gaps. In terms of the longer format I'm batting number three for Essex now so I get to face the new ball, which can only help my technique. I'm also bowling second change so I'm getting there."

What they say - Graham Gooch, Essex batting coach
"Ravi's attractive to England because he fits the bill of the modern cricketer - very talented with the bat, brilliant in the field and a useful medium pacer in one-day cricket and the first-class game. He helps balance the side as a fourth seamer and top order batsman. In the dressing room he is a very bubbly, infectious character. His batting is obviously the main string to his bow and although he still has a bit of work to do to take his game forward he has all the ability to be able to do so."

What you may not know - by the man himself
"I've got a little puppy rottweiler, who's a very vicious man! I'm a massive fan of animals - especially my rottweiler. He's called Gotti - named after a member of the mafia."

Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo