Ravi Bopara believes England’s management did him a favour by allowing him to return to play for Essex during the recent one-day international series against Sri Lanka – despite not picking him for the NatWest matches themselves.
His motorway mileage may have been heavy over the past fortnight, but Bopara has relished the chance to continue to get bat on ball for his county and feels it has led to a much-needed return to form.
Bopara was required to keep checking back in with the England squad, and said: “I’ve certainly got to know motorways really well in the past couple of weeks but it’s been good to be playing rather than spending a period of time without an innings.”
It has been a frustrating couple of months, in truth, for Bopara who seemed certain to win a Test return ahead of the Sri Lanka series only to be usurped by Eoin Morgan who out-performed him in an England Lions fixture against the tourists in mid-May.
Morgan returned from a spell in the Indian Premier League to hit 193 and win the Test place ahead of the Essex man who, ironically, had turned down a late offer to play in the IPL in order to concentrate on regaining his spot in England’s Test side. It left Bopara upset but even more determined to win back his place and his inclusion in the subsequent one-day international squad did at least take him a step closer.
“It’s been nice to be around the England guys but I want to be there playing for my country,” added Bopara. “It was disappointing to be left out but I think my comparative lack of runs in late May and early June was just one of those periods you go through.”
A run of nine innings and just 72 runs ended when he hit 72 against Somerset at Bath in the Friends Life t20 on July 4 and he followed up with 48 against Hampshire in the same competition two nights later. Then he underlined his return to form by hitting a stylish half-century against Leicestershire on the opening day of Essex’s current County Championship match.
“I had been a little bit frustrated with my form recently, and nothing was really going my way,” said Bopara. “But I’ve remained positive and I decided that I would go for my shots against Somerset right from the start and it just clicked for me.
“I’d been hitting the ball really well in the nets and out in the middle but I just hadn’t found the gaps in the field. That builds up pressure but, against Somerset, I got the first few deliveries away and that’s what it’s all about. I knew that I wasn’t in bad form, and just needed longer at the crease.”
With James Foster serving the first of his two-match ECB ban for a breach of discipline regulations relating to the county’s disciplinary record in the past twelve months, Bopara also took on the responsibility of captaining Essex against Hampshire and, despite a nine-run defeat, admitted he enjoyed the occasion.
“Apart from the result, it was a good experience and I realised just how fast the game really is,” he said. “As captain, you really have to think quickly on your feet. You start out with your game plans and strategies but you have to be ready to adapt quickly to changing situations and it’s helped me to appreciate all the more the pressure that Fozzie is under during a match – remembering too that he’s also keeping wicket!”