Even I’d recall Bopara

Such has been the way and more importantly for me, the manner, Ravi Bopara has played in this ODI series against Australia, that even I would recall him for the Test series starting against South Africa next Thursday.

Over the last couple of years I have been a big critic of Ravi’s. Even when he has scored runs, I wasn’t totally convinced such was the manner in which he got some of them. He didn’t look convincing, technically sound enough or mentally tough enough to me a lot of the time.

But he is now playing with the aura of a man who feels and looks like he belongs out in the middle in international cricket. Ok, it hasn’t been Test cricket, but his form and self belief during the ODI’s has been magnificent. He looks to have finally come of age.

I’m not bothered about his bowling, I don’t want a No.6 for England to be picked because he can bowl around 8 average Overs late on in the day, I want the No.6 to be picked because he can score runs and win or save games for England. 

It would be unlucky on Jonny Bairstow to get dropped, but his time will come again. He also didn’t do enough in the recent West Indies’ series to make it impossible for the selectors to drop him. Looking on the positive side for Bairstow though, he has now had a taste of Test cricket and it will be valuable experience for him moving forward. 

One more chance for Ravi?

So it’s Ravi Bopara who gets the nod to replace the injured Jonathan Trott in the England squad for the 3rd test starting at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
Although he’s only 26 himself, I believe the chances are that this could be one of Ravi’s last chances to prove to the selectors that he can deliver at this level. Leicestershire’s James Taylor would appear to be breathing down his neck and at 21 the selectors might decide to invest in youth if Bopara fails to convince again.
There’s clearly no issue with Trott’s place in the side and he will walk back into the team as soon as he if fit. Bopara could score a double century in both innings and it still wouldn’t be enough to keep Trott out of the team.
Bopara’s only chance in the long run would be to replace Eoin Morgan in the No.6 slot. Morgan has played some good innings at times but hasn’t really nailed down his place in the side yet.
I do believe that the selectors aren’t totally convinced by the test credentials of either men, neither of them have really totally looked the part at test level too me so far. Morgan seems to be the mentally tougher of the two and that seems to have swung it in his favour so far.
Morgan will probably retain his place for a while longer as well, the team are currently winning and that buys the selectors time to give him a proper run in the side to access whether he has all the tools required to make it at test level, or become another Neil Fairbrother.
Chances are that no matter what Ravi does at Edgbaston he will be the one to make way when Trott returns. So all he can really do here is put down a marker that proves to the selectors that he is the next cab off the rank (as Geoff Miller regularly puts it) for the back up spot in future touring parties, or if an injury occurs. No pressure really!
Be interesting to see if Ravi is able to handle it, his England test match future could depend on it.

Ravi Bopara V Eoin Morgan

It’s no major surprise to see both Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan named in the Lions squad for next weeks game against Sri Lanka. If the press are to be believed it is a straight shoot out between the two for the 6th batting slot in England’s test side.

The more I think about this though, the more convinced I am that Ravi Bopara is already in the side.

I knew Ravi had done a lot of bowling this season for Essex, but having checked the stats today I was surprised to see just how much he has bowled.

So far this season (including the current match, his 6th) he has already bowled 132 overs, compared to last season when he bowled just 25 overs in 8 first class matches.

Is this more than just a coincidence?

England are going to play 6 batsmen, so they will want a batsman who can bowl 8-10 overs a day if needed. Ravi looks to be fitting that bill.

Add to that the fact that he turned down the IPL, which at the time I suspected was because he had been given a friendly tip off from someone with a foot in the Essex and England camp and it is all starting to add up.

If it is a straight shoot out between the two batsmen then I’d go for Morgan. But I don’t believe it is, as England will want a batsman who can bowl the overs. If this is the case, then I would have to reluctantly agree with Ravi’s selection.

Surely the selectors will have learnt from 2009 and this time he will bat down the order at 6, rather than 3, which was way too high for him.

I also believe that if the selectors pick him, they should stick with him. Players who think they are on trial will probably fail more often than not.

Ravi doesn’t strike me as the toughest mentally, so he would probably benefit from the reassurance of knowing he will get a good run in the team. The fact that he would be in the side to bowl as well might help by taking some of the pressure off him with his batting.

Heavy Rollers, Tiflex Balls and £100,000 down the pan

Another bad week for Ravi Bopara, 56 runs from 4 innings is hardy the sort of form that will have Andy Flower pencilling him into the side for the 1st test with Sri Lanka.

More worryingly and telling for me is Bopara’s response to his latest low scores. He said on Twitter “No heavy rollers & tiflex balls is a recipe for low scores. Crap cricket!”

That sounds like excuse making to me, it’s not the sort of response I’d expect to hear from a top class test cricketer. It’s taking the easy way out.

I keep hearing about how talented Ravi is, how he has all the shots in the book. This all may well be true, but I think he badly lacks the temperament and strength of character to be a test cricketer.

He was found badly wanting against Australia in 2009 and I haven’t seen or heard much to convince me that anything has changed with him. I just don’t see him ‘gutsing it out,’ a quality that top class test cricketers possess.

At the moment it looks like Ravi should have took the hundred grand on offer.

In other matches it was great to see Graham Onions back in the wickets with his 5/53 against Yorkshire.

I was shocked when I heard it was his first game in 15 months, it’s amazing how quickly you can forget about a cricketer when his name is out of the public domain.

I would imagine that there must have been times when he wondered if he had played his last game. England looks a long way off for him now, but I’d imagine he’d quite happily take a quiet season playing for Durham after the last 15 months.

What has happened to Warwickshire? I got quite excited yesterday when they got to 416/6, I was absolutely amazed when 642 was finally posted.

I heard it mentioned on a radio show this morning that this must be the first time in 2 years that Warwickshire had secured maximum batting points, I thought at the time that it was a sarcastic remark. On thinking about it, such has been the Bears poor batting over the last couple of seasons, it’s probably not far off the truth.

I did then expect to see Somerset blitz their way to a similar score, but no – they haven’t. Rikki Clarke and Chris Woakes triggered a collapse and now Somerset are in deep trouble.

Boyd Rankin struggled and still needs the kick up the arse I recommended yesterday, while the unknown (to me anyway) Andrew Miller got off to an impressive start with figures of 12-3-25-1.

Ravi Bopara Watch

Not quite the start that Ravi would have hoped for in his quest to get the 6th batting spot in the England test side.

Scores of 0 and 39 isn’t a great start, and he was also upstaged by Kent youngster Sam Northeast (112) who scored a century in the match when conditions weren’t great for batting.

Ravi did put a block on Northeast’s attempt to upstage him by claiming the youngsters wicket in the 2nd innings. Figures of 2/50 from 18 overs in Kent’s 2nd innings was probably Bopara’s greater match input.

Bopara’s bowling could be very important when it comes to selecting the 6th batsman. With England only playing a 4 man attack, a batsman who is reliable enough to bowl 8-10 overs a day would be invaluable and probably high on the selectors tick list.

And you never know, if Collingwood’s standards are anything to go by, you wouldn’t need to score bucket loads of runs either.

You could scratch around at the crease, score 16 or so runs in about an hour, then get yourself out with a ridiculous shot or a lack of technique and keep your place for years as long as you can bowl a few overs when the seamers need a rest. There is hope for Ravi yet.

Another thing going for Ravi is that Eoin Morgan hasn’t done much in the IPL yet, in his latest (2nd) game he didn’t even get a bat. He only managed 6 runs in his 1st match, so there is still all to play for.

Not the ideal start for Ravi

It was a mixed day for England hopefuls on the first full day of the County Championship season, with Ravi Bopara coming a distant second best to Sam Northeast at Chelmsford.

I was impressed to hear that Bopara had turned down a £100,000 IPL contract to concentrate on playing for Essex in an attempt to get his England test place back.

Eoin Morgan has gone to the IPL, it is widely expected that Morgan is next in line for a test spot with Paul Collingwood’s place becoming available.

So why has Ravi decided to stay at Essex instead of going to India? Especially if Morgan is going to get the vacant test spot.

Well, maybe Ravi has had a wink and a nudge, possibly from Graham Gooch? Either it is a very brave call, or he knows something that we don’t.

It could be that someone has told Ravi that the test place is far from secured for Morgan.

Anyway, things couldn’t have gone much worse for Ravi today with him getting a 16 ball duck.

This came after Kent youngster Sam Northeast had scored a century. It wasn’t just the 112 runs Northeast scored that was impressive, it was the fact that he scored them on a pitch that seen 16 wickets fall on the day.

It was also a massive 88 runs more than any other player managed on the day, with no other player making it past 24 and just the 2 batsmen passing 20.

If anyone from England had come to see Ravi play, they would have left Chelmsford with another name to throw into the hat.

The only good thing to happen for Ravi today, was the fact that Morgan could only manage 6 runs in the opening IPL match.

Morgan was unable to get his Kolkata Knight Riders across the line as they lost to Chennai Super Kings. They needed 42 runs from 28 balls when Morgan came into bat, far from an impossible task by his high standards.

England Watch Scoreboard – Ravi 0, Morgan 0.

Still too casual, Ravi

Taking advantage of a couple of days holiday over the Easter period, I watched a bit of IPL today (unusual for me), in the shape of Kings XI Punjab v Royal Challengers Bangalore.

Noticing that Kevin Pietersen and Ravi Bopara were involved, it gave me an added incentive to watch and see how they both got on. Both did well with the bat, KP hit a typically explosive 66 not out to win the match, while Bopara batted sensibly, rotating the strike on his way to 42 not out, off 33 balls.

Towards the end of the match a comment made by Geoff Miller earlier this week flashed into my mind.

“Our fielding, which is such a vital aspect of limited-overs cricket, has improved markedly and there’s no reason we can’t perform well in what will be a challenging global tournament.”

My lasting memory of Ravi Bopara’s, Ashes summer, (besides his batting), was the ridiculous catch he dropped at Edgbaston on the Friday morning, costing England around 25 runs if my memory serves me right. His fielding in general was very slack.

Judging by the fielding performance from Bopara (and his Punjab team in general), I hope his batting has improved, because his fielding certainly hasn’t. A joke of a misfield was compounded by a dropped catch off Kevin Pietersen, one that arguably cost them the match.

The one thing that stood out to me about Bopara last year, was a slack, casual attitude towards his allround game. From what I seen today, that casualness still appears to be there.

On top of the fielding, on the last ball when he was at the non strikers end, Brett Lee smashed the ball to the boundary, and he and Bopara appeared to be standing admiring rather than getting on with running, costing their team (what could have been) one valuable run, at least.

Maybe that seems a bit critical, but I found these little things the most frustrating about Bopara in the past. It these lapses that let him down, and probably affects his batting as well. He is a decent, talented cricketer, but until he sorts out these issues I don’t think he will ever realise his full potential.

No need for England to panic – yet!

Despite the hammering England suffered at the hands of Australia in the 4th test at Headingley last weekend there is no reason for wholesale changes and major panicking as the series is 1-1 going into the final test with all still to play for – a position everyone involved in the England set up would probably have gladly taken if offered at the start of the series.

Yes, the batting line-up does look in disarray and badly struggles without the steadying hand of Kevin Pietersen, England’s only true World class batsman. The selectors will probably point to the fact that England have scored over 375 in all three of their 1st innings in this series before Headingley saying that the batting can’t be that bad.

The facts are though that the tail in all of the 1st three tests has had to bail out the batsmen in getting the total to respectability, it’s a team game after all the selectors would probably rightly argue. Only Andrew Strauss though (once) has scored three figures in any of the four tests in this series, and for the top five that just isn’t good enough.

As stated above this is no time for panic and wholesale changes, team changes should be kept to minimum – that is for sure. If the situation dosen’t improve at The Oval and the top 5 buckle under the pressure yet again though it should be a different matter.

The time will surely have arrived for a rethink in the batting department before the South Africa series and with Andrew Flintoff going as well England can start looking at rebuilding the team. How many times now have the likes of Cook, Bell, Collingwood and now a new face in Ravi Bopara failed against the major test playing nations.

If the feeble nature that they continuously surrender isn’t bad enough the brainless shot selection and ill discipline and apparent inability to think on their own two feet and learn from previous mistakes and experiences is enough to drive an England supporter mad.

For me changes need to be made at the end of this series, I applaud the selectors for their loyalty and reluctance to chop and change at the drop of a hat like in the really bad old days (which I’m not for a minute suggesting we are in now), but you get the feeling that this current batch have been shown a bit too much faith.

Haven’t we been here before, Collingwood was on the verge of getting dropped last season against South Africa until he got his 100 at Edgbaston in the 3rd test. Bell has done nothing since his 199 in the 1st test at Lord’s in the same series. Alastair Cook could easily have gone after the 1st test in West Indies ealier this year when Bell was dropped after England’s diabolical 51 all out.

Again I’m not suggesting wholesale changes but a rethink is certainly needed. All in the England set up seem to think Ravi Bopara is going to be a good test player and I’m not going to disagree with them, the problem is he looks like he might be better suited down the order, maybe at No.5 or 6.

Is Pietersen willing to move up to No.3? If not that is a long standing problem. Opener Alastair Cook has 3 hundreds since December 2007 (two of which against West Indies), not good enough for a test opener! Could he bat at No.3 if another opener could be found? England have a lot of questions to answer, they can’t go on stumbling around hoping things will put themselves right.

It’s great caning the West Indian and New Zealand bowling attacks around in English conditions – a task not much tougher than playing against county cricket attacks – but when it comes to the big boys they are continuously found wanting.