The English cricket backslapathon and what it means for Ravi Bopara

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We sometimes experience this phenomenon where the girl driving the car behind seems to be the most beautiful woman in the world. This is true when we catch a glimpse of her for a fraction of a second, from a distance, while we’re both moving, but then she pulls up behind us at the lights and the illusion is over.

Given just a glimpse of something, the brain can be very generous when filling in the gaps. Perhaps fuelled by the optimism borne of strong performances by the national side, a lot of English people seem to be assessing young England players far too generously. That’s very kind of them, but it does no favours to the players we know rather better.

Ravi Bopara has three Test hundreds, 20 first-class hundreds, a one-day double hundred and a Twenty20 hundred to his name and he is only 26. Here are the men who are apparently going to leave him for dead because they’ve ‘grown up with Twenty20’ and are ‘full of confidence’.

Jonny Bairstow

Averaged 46 in a losing Yorkshire side this year and played a frankly jaw-dropping debut one-day innings for England against India. He’s looked amazing for all of 21 balls in international cricket, so why not make him captain? Has the nation accepted a job lot of jump to conclusions mats or something? Chill out. Gather more than four overs’ worth of evidence. Maybe he has a massive weakness against bowlers who are quicker than RP Singh.

Jos Buttler

Always scores runs when he’s on telly and averages 71 in one-day cricket, largely because he’s only had 24 innings (12 of them not out). Looks great so far – which isn’t very far at all.

Alex Hales

Put him up against a West Indies second eleven that’s been in autumnal England for about three quarters of an hour and he’ll have them for breakfast.

James Taylor

According to some, Taylor leapfrogged Ravi Bopara after outscoring him in the England Lions match against Sri Lanka. Those matches aren’t shoot-outs. They’re information gathering exercises. Those two fifties will be added to the one hundred that Taylor managed to score in the second division of the County Championship this season. He’s certainly a good batsman, but we don’t yet know how he’ll fare against teams who have more than two half-decent bowlers.

And back to Bopara

Much as we’d all like life to be constant progress with never a setback, it isn’t like that. It’s more like a near constant series of setbacks with occasional windows of stability. Ravi Bopara has had a couple of career catastrophes and has come back from them well. He has important qualities that we may not find in the players above.

A lot of the English currently seem willing to sacrifice something very good, but which isn’t perfect, in favour of whatever’s inside that cardboard box with a question mark on it that just got delivered.


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  1. The heated debate about Ravi’s England career isn’t as overwhelmingly idiotic in nature as the calls for Cook to be dropped not so long back.

    Despite, admirably, rejecting the IPL’s advances to secure an England spot he was quite simply abject for Essex early doors in 2011.

    So from being the natural replacement for Paul Collingwood there is now a big question mark over his future I’d say.

  2. It’s demoralising, but it’s the same everywhere. Sports fans suffer from attention deficit disorder where ever you look. Something new and shiny always looks a better bet than something a bit more battered.

    Phil Hughes is somehow b

  3. @FEC

    Despite, admirably, rejecting the IPL’s advances to secure an England spot he was quite simply abject for Essex early doors in 2011.

    Those 2 championship hundreds (one of them in the 4th innings to win the game)in May must have been a mirage.

    Even Cook struggled to score runs in April this season, what marked Cook & Bopara apart from their Essex colleagues was their ability to convert a 50 into a century.

    Bopara also shone in seaming, swinging conditions in a game where Taylor made 19 runs in total, compared with Bopara’s 37 & 178. Ask Andrew Strauss if your chances of pursuing a rewarding international career are over by the time you’re 26 & I’m sure he’ll tell you that’s simply not true, mainly because Strauss made his debut at the grand old age of 27.

    Taylor, Bairstow, Hales & Butler have good futures ahead of them, but as KC rightly points out, international cricket is often about how you respond to all that the game throws at you.

    1. Those centuries weren’t a mirage but they were amassed in the 2nd innings so they (literally) don’t count as much as 1st innings tons.

      As an Essex fan I want Ravi to succeed more than most but his England place is up for grabs.

      He needs to nail it down now or become another nearly man like Owais Shah.

  4. When I was a child, I always wanted the contestant to open the box rather than take the money.

    More fun – especially if they landed a boobie-prize.

    But your point is well made, KC.

  5. I don’t think Bopara’s place is under any kind of question in the one day side, at the moment. And rightly so, because his bowling is a big asset in the one day form, he can bowl ten overs for you without leaking runs.

    In the test side, the same should apply so long as England are wedded to a four-bowler lineup as they seem to be. Of course, England have been lucky and Ravi hasn’t been needed to bowl lots of overs in any Test since his return. The calls for others to jump ahead of Bopara seem to be based on the issue of batting alone, and with an eye on England’s other five batsmen and Prior having been in imperious form, so much so that in a way who bats at five or six doesn’t make much difference, so why not blood youngsters?

    I’m unconvinced by that, I think it does make a difference, and if Ravi being in the team means we never have to see Trott bowling again then I say cement his place.

    1. There’s hardly ever a circumstance in a test match where the captain is saying to himself, “If only we can get through the next dozen overs with only 40 runs conceded.” That is Bopara’s bowling speciality, and it is entirely suited to limited overs cricket. And it is entirely unsuited to test cricket.

      So if he is to get a test place, it can only be as a wicket-taking bowler (which he isn’t) or as a pure batsman. Strauss, Cook, Trott, KP, Bell and Prior are simply better batsmen than he is, so Morgan is the only point of entry for him. Both are prodigiously talented, both have the potential to be great. Because the England selectors rightly give players an extended run before booting them out (Bopara was the beneficiary of one of these), Morgan is in for the next while or so. It will take a set of failures for Morgan before Bopara comes into the reckoning again, but if it happens, you might see him back in the test side again.

  6. Ravi did get three consecutive test centuries a while back. OK it was against a can’t-be-arsed West Indian attack, but how many players have scored 3 consecutive tons against any attack, whether 2nd division county or containing RP Singh? I still reckon he deserves a pop at a test place if Morgan slips up or any of the rest get crocked.

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