After his dropping by England for their T20I at Old Trafford on Monday evening, I ask – what is next for Ravi Bopara’s international career?
The stocky right-hander has failed miserably in recent times, scoring just 28 runs in his last five international innings, surely not the returns of a man worthy of the England number three position.
After pulling out of the England squad for the second Test with South Africa at Leeds for personal reasons, his scores (for Essex and England) have read: 0, 1, 3, 2, 16, 0, 6, 0 and 6. Such scores suggest Bopara isn’t mentally right for the game right now.
This is where England’s conundrum comes into it, what do they now do with Bopara?
After being replaced by Luke Wright at number three for the recent T20I match in Manchester, it appears unlikely that Bopara will now regain his place for the ICC T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka later this month.
Surely England can’t carry a batsman struggling to hit the ball off the square, for such an important tournament, they are after all defending champions. The 15-man squad cannot now be changed unless of an injury, so Bopara will have to go as one of the reserve batsmen.
Back in June things were finally looking up for Bopara, a man whose international career seems to have stalled more times than a learner driver.
After missing England’s winter Test series in Sri Lanka due to a side strain, he was due to play the Test series against the West Indies in May, but again injury (this time a thigh problem) put pay to his chances, leaving Jonny Bairstow to instead debut in his place.
Bopara didn’t let the two setbacks deter him though, he went back to Essex to regain his fitness and form and with it, his place in the England ODI side.
His returns in two ODIs against the West Indies and four against Australia were: 8, 19no, 15, 82, 33no and 52no as England won all six. Ravi was back and raring for another go at Test cricket.
That’s when the disappointments started again. Picked to bat at number six against the might of South Africa in the first Test at The Oval, he scored only 0 and 22 as England were well beaten.
Due to play for Essex in a Pro40 match in between Test matches, he pulled out stating personal issues and immediately informed the ECB he would be unavailable for selection for the Headingley Test match.
It’s not our right to speculate on what the problem in Bopara’s personal life is, but his form (since pulling out of the England squad) has been none existent, this too after withdrawing from the England Lion’s squad on the morning of their match with Australia A on August 7th.
Surprisingly though as his batting has suffered his bowling has not. Often a bowler who is quicker than most think, his economy rate in recent ODI’s has been excellent. Whilst bowling in the recent South Africa ODI series he had economy rates of 3.10, 3.77, 3.00 and 4.00, perhaps he feels less pressure in bowling than batting – the discipline he has earned his reputation for.
Always a man who has shone on the domestic circuit, Bopara must again feel his international career slipping out of his grasp, and not for the first time.
Since making his Test debut against Sri Lanka in December 2007, he has played in only 13 of England’s 62 Test matches since – a damning statistic alone, this highlights his inconsistent form and fitness over the past four and a half years.
His numbers don’t lie either. His 13 Tests matches have brought him 575 runs at just 31.94 – this in an era where top order batsmen shouldn’t be averaging much under 40.
The fact that his first-class average is 41.99, ten more than his Test average also tells a tail of its own, perhaps Bopara is never destine to be the great international cricketer his talent once suggested. These things happen – remember Graeme Hick or Mark Ramprakash, great in County cricket, but a disappointment on the biggest stage.
At 27, Bopara still has time to rectify this, but with England’s Test squad for their series in India this November due to be announced on Thursday, I don’t expect to see Ravi’s name on the list.
Despite the fact that the Kevin Pietersen debacle is still ongoing, Bopara is likely to remain down the picking order or the cab rank as the England selectors like to call it these days – with Bairstow, James Taylor and Nick Compton the more likely middle order candidates.
With no more ODI cricket scheduled for the rest of the year, it appears Bopara won’t again play for England until at least 2013, the best he can now appear to hope for is a place on the Lion’s tour of India in December – Until then his only opportunity seems to be by seizing on the misfortune of an injured teammate at the T20 World Cup.