Ravi Bopara will have only one thing on his mind when the County Championship season starts on April 8 and that is to win back his England Test place.
“My aim is to start the season by getting a lot of runs for Essex and, as a result, be knocking on the England selectors’ door and telling them that I’m the man they’ve got to pick,” he said.
“There’s no other way to do it, you get recognition by performances and putting the numbers on the board.”
And Bopara has given up the chance to return to the IPL to further his aspiration. Rajasthan Royals, seeking to replace Paul Collingwood, reportedly tried to tempt him with a deal worth around £100,000 but the 25-year-old turned down the lucrative opportunity.
“It was great that they wanted me and I thank them for offering me a place,” he continued. “It’s a wonderful experience playing in the IPL, it’s great cricket and you are playing with the best and against the best players in the world, but I decided against it in order to concentrate on my cricket over here in order to try to win back my Test place.
“I may have taken a hit financially but playing for England means everything to me, so I want to give myself every chance to get my place back and I want to do it sooner rather than later. That means everything to me; it’s vitally important for me and my cricket.”
The Essex all-rounder took the first steps back into international cricket when he received a belated call-up to the England World Cup squad, replacing the initially injured Eoin Morgan, but he admits that it was a blow to his pride when he was not named in the original squad.
“I was desperate to play in the World Cup and not being selected in the first place did leave me very disappointed,” he said. “But in the end I got a place although it’s not the ideal way when one of your mates gets injured. But you have to take your chance whatever way it comes.
“I didn’t play my best out there. I don’t think any of us did. It would have been nice if we’d got further in the competition and, having won the Twenty20 World Cup, we all felt that we could go all the way through to the final and then win it. But it was not to be.”
Bopara has been playing throughout the winter, firstly in South Africa before going to the Caribbean with the England Lions and then on to the sub-continent when he was drafted into the World Cup party.
“I really enjoyed my winter and put plenty of air miles on my Skycard but I’ve worked hard on a lot of things that I feel are going to help me move forward and push my claims for that place in the Test side.”
*Paul Hiscock is a co-author of a new publication ’60 Classic Essex Matches’. Priced at £12.99 plus p&p, ordering details and availability at www.calmproductions.com or call 0845 408 2606. Copies can also be purchased from the Essex Cricket Retail Outlet, and more information on the book is available by visiting www.calmproductions.com