I needed to prove Ravi Bopara wrong to make him believe, says Simon Harmer

Harmer took over the T20 captaincy this season with a clear plan of what needed to change and how he wanted Essex to approach the Blast

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
Simon Harmer and Ravi Bopara with the Blast trophy, Worcestershire v Essex, Vitality Blast final, Edgbaston, September 21, 2019

Simon Harmer and Ravi Bopara with the Blast trophy  •  Getty Images

Essex captain Simon Harmer argued that his decision to drop Ravi Bopara for two group games after an argument regarding his batting position was vindicated by his performances from No. 6 during his side's improbable surge to the Vitality Blast T20 trophy.
Bopara was left out of games against Hampshire and Gloucestershire after what he called some "very tough conversations" with his captain, and admitted before the quarter-final against Lancashire that he was "still not happy down there", but produced three consecutive man-of-the-match efforts to take Essex to Finals Day, and made 36 not out off 22 balls to help seal victory in the final.
"That was one of the decisions that needed to be made," said Harmer after Essex's triumph.
"In my opinion, Ravi is one of, if not the best, finisher of T20 innings, I felt that in order to for us to win games, we needed him to come in and win [them] for us. [It's] pointless him walking in at three and getting a good ball and he's sitting back in the hut.
"Sometimes you need to prove people wrong in order to make them believe and I think that was the case with him. He came back after time away from the team.
"He bought in 100 percent and reaped the rewards. He's an incredibly talented cricketer, the way he thinks about cricket and the way he bats, the way he bowls, the execution of his skill."
Bopara signaled in the build-up to Finals Day that he may look to give up red-ball cricket next year and aim to prolong his career on the global T20 circuit, and Harmer suggested that he is most valuable coming in with five or six overs to spare.
"He's an unbelievable player," he said, "so I can understand his frustration. But hopefully even if it's not now, five years down the line he can sit back and realise that he is actually best suited to five or six."
Worcestershire captain Moeen Ali agreed that Bopara had been "outstanding".
"In my opinion, he won them the game," Moeen said. "His experience showed. I'm just disappointed with the result."
Harmer took over the T20 captaincy from Ryan ten Doeschate this season, and had never previously captained a side for a full season in the format, but said that he had come in with a clear plan of what needed to change and how he wanted Essex to approach the Blast.
"There were some difficult decisions that needed to be made," he said. "A couple of players got dropped, senior players - not popular opinion in order to drop them - but [it was] what I felt was best for the team in order to get 11 guys on the park who were all pulling in the same direction.
"There were changes, in my opinion, that needed to happen in order for us to move forward as a T20 team. But the South African mindset and the competitive environment that I grew up in - to come over here, you need to understand how things work.
"If you look at some of the South African coaches, or sometimes the players that have come over have clashed heads with English players - I think there's a certain narrative in terms of how things work and how to get people to buy in.
"For me to come in and just throw out demands and orders and this is how we're going to play - I was very conscious of that at the beginning - of how I wanted to go about it, of how I needed to get the guys to buy in… that was probably my toughest challenge, but after that things kind of went our way."
Harmer made his own match-winning contributions in the knockout stages, returning the best-ever combined figures on Finals Day of 7 for 35 across the two fixtures before a game-changing cameo of 18 off 7 balls, and argued that his side's belief was what got them over the line.
"We have all the tools," he said. "We have all the players. We have what you cannot buy, which is the camaraderie in the dressing room. There's a lot of love in our dressing room for the guy next to you.
"In my opinion, you cannot buy that. You can bring in players, you can do what you want, but you can't buy a bond between people. So that's why I was quite vocal tonight in terms of how I want people - especially at Essex County Cricket Club - to change the mentality of a small cricket club because we don't have the money.
"It's always excuses. In my opinion, those need to go. We have the tools to be very competitive over the next five years in all three formats, but we need to start believing.
"As it works in cricket, when you need to chase down 300 in a 50-over game, people only start to believe when somebody scores a hundred or somebody takes a five-for."
Essex have the chance to secure an unprecedented T20/Championship double this week, as they travel to Taunton on Monday for a winner-takes-all four-day game, and Harmer said they could take the Blast win into that match.
"Now, with us winning this T20 trophy, I think the belief is there and the players now understand that actually we are good enough," he said. "All the noise in the background is just noise. Hopefully moving forward, we can be competitive and win more trophies."

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @mroller98