Ravi Bopara recently gave up a lucrative financial deal when declining an offer from Rajasthan Royals to play in the Indian Premier League, preferring to focus on scoring the runs for Essex that would bring him back into consideration to regain his England Test place.
But, so far in this embryonic season, the talented 25-year-old must be wondering if he has chosen wisely. His county have been beaten by a distance in both their County Championship matches and the stylish Bopara has been left looking ruefully at a disappointing haul of just 56 runs in four innings.
Now he is hoping that the pitch at Wantage Road, where Essex meet Northamptonshire in the third round of Championship games, could kick-start his season.
“It’s not been a great start for me or the Essex team,” said Bopara. “We’ve been well beaten by Kent and Middlesex. Obviously, I need to be scoring heavily to alert the selectors that I’m ready for another chance at Test level but it hasn’t happened yet. But the matches are coming thick and fast and, hopefully, I can start scoring consistently well to push my claims.”
There are suggestions around the county circuit that the Tiflex ball being used in Division Two, plus the conditions offered by the April weather, are currently weighted in favour of the bowlers. Yet Bopara remains unimpressed by the theory.
“Yes, the Tiflex ball does swing a little bit more than the Duke’s because it has a bigger seam on it although I always thought that the Duke’s ball also did quite a bit,” he added.
“But those are just excuses really, it’s the same for both sides and we just have to get better. Personally, there is a little bit of extra pressure on me, and it doesn’t help when you are not getting runs and you want to get into the England side. But that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
“You can’t score runs every week, especially at this time of the year in these conditions and, as a batsman, you do need a little bit of luck early season. I can’t actually remember playing and missing at the ball so far this season but if I’ve nicked it, then it’s gone to hand and I’ve also had a couple of big nip-backers.
“So what can you do? There are good deliveries flying around and you just have to hope that they haven’t got your name on it. Once you play yourself in, hopefully you can start to put some pressure on the bowlers and things might change around.
“Early season, it is going to be hard for a batsman to score a hundred in the conditions we’ve faced so far and anyone who does that has performed a great achievement. And that’s what I need to go and do.”