Kevin Pietersen, star of England's World T20 win over South Africa has flown home. In his place comes the black sheep of English cricket Ravi Bopara. Bopara, scapegoated and slaughtered for four indifferent tests on the back of three successive hundreds, has been dropped out of the one day side, and become an unloved, unwanted pariah.
But it wasn't too long ago when Ravi Bopara was the great hope of English cricket. A mainstay of the one-day team (having been part of some fantastic innings - Sri Lanka and India in 2007 to name two), Bopara made English cricket history by scoring three successive test hundreds against the West Indies last year. Bopara was fast-tracked into the test team as a specialist number three (a position he is unfamiliar with) for last summer, but after a few failures he was bombed out for the final Ashes test for the untried Jonathan Trott. Bopara didn't even make the squad for the tour of South Africa, in either the test or one day squad, but was surprisingly named in the World T20 squad. Some would say to simply justify his central contract. But who would be that controversial?
England owe Ravi Bopara. Big time. Ravi is one of our most talented batsmen, and there is no way there isn't a place for him in one of the codes. After those three hundreds (albeit against a West Indies team who had no idea why they were there), Bopara should have nailed on a place in the team for the next five years. Ian Bell has carved out a career from making a score every 10 tests, and he keeps his place. Yes, Bopara had a poor Ashes, but there's no way that Bell deserved to play in that final test ahead of Ravi. Bopara had a poor four tests, Bell had a poor four years. Bell's England career seems to be based on the principle that "he's due runs". What's to say Bopara isn't due runs? Players go in and out of form, and as any cliché-enthusiast will tell you, form is temporary but class is permanent. (Copyright every blog about Dimitar Berbatov ever). Can the selectors really justify Bell over Bopara, when Ravi is clearly the better batsman?
Ravi is definately owed one by the ECB. For the final day at the Oval, where the Ashes was clinched, every England player who played in the series got a medal, lap of honour, and a mention in Andrew Strauss' speech. Monty Panesar, who played in one test, got a special mention. Bopara's imput into England winning was slight, but at least he was part of a test winning team at Lord's. Panesar played out a draw. Bopara's cumulative score of 1-1 was the same as Steve Harmison and Graham Onions, and was equal to Panesar's 0-0. But Onions and Panesar (along with Kevin Pietersen) were all out for the lap of honour, basking in the reflective glory of an Ashes win. Bopara was playing for Essex at Chelmsford.
Bopara didn't make the squads for the tours to South Africa and Bangladesh, or the squad for the T20 tour of Dubai against Pakistan. He made a solid fifty in the T20 warm-up game before this tournament, before he was again dropped. England do owe Ravi Bopara, but ultimately, Ravi Bopara owes England a few scores. If he can make a few match-winning contributions as England win the World T20, Bopara can force himself back into the selectors reckoning for further test and ODI honours. Bopara owes it to himself to make runs. Hopefully starting tonight against New Zealand.