Sunday, 25 September 2011

Ravi Bopara is Embarrassed

Ravi Bopara is the epitome of a confidence player. So often in and out of the England team, he's never truly felt comfortable in the side, so as such, hasn't felt loved by the English selectors. This lack of inner belief and trust in himself has led to poor performances, and has meant that his great potential just hasn't been lived up too.

Ravi Bopara has only really been given two solid runs in the side. The first, back in 2009, was when new coach Andy Flower told Ravi that he was the man to bat at number three for England, and put his trust and confidence in him. Bopara backed this up by making three successive test centuries. He felt as though he had a place in the team and confidence, and runs flowed.

He's had to wait until this summer for his next prolonged spell in the side. In and out over the last couple of years, he was given his chance for the final two tests of the India series, and then for the subsequent ODIs. While he started slowly, the performances have slowly but surely improved as Ravi is slowly starting to feel loved again by the selectors. A 96 at Lord's - so nearly his maiden ODI ton and comfortably his highest ODI score preceded a valuable 37* at Cardiff to guide England home, and tellingly a 4-10 in the first T20 against the West Indies. England's best ever T20 figures.

It's worth bearing that in mind. Of all of the great bowlers to have represented England over the past six years in T20 cricket, nobody has bowled better than Ravi Bopara did on Friday night. This is some achievement. However, Ravi claims he is "embarrassed" to have collected the accolade, which sort of sums up his mental issue with being in the England team. He just doesn't feel worthy enough to be playing international cricket, let alone excelling at it.

When thinking of Ravi Bopara's mentality, the perfect person to compare him to is Eoin Morgan. Both have extraordinary natural talent, as well as some equally obvious technical flaws. Yet both have had distinctly different careers in international cricket. Ever since taking to the field for England, Morgan has looked as though he belongs. Blessed with a mental fortitude that almost guarantees success, Morgan is extremely comfortable at the highest level, and has reaped the rewards of that. Bopara almost needs someone to constantly remind him that he actually is a very good cricketer, and while he will always be blessed with an extraordinary talent, what isn't so sure is his ability to perform and impress consistently for England. Ravi's feeling of embarrassment at his record figures sums up his attitude, and you get the feeling that had Morgan broken a record that he would be enjoying it rather than feeling bashful about it.

Technically, Eoin Morgan has his limitations. He isn't brilliant to the short ball, and is often very edgy when driving the ball off the front foot. But it's almost assumed that he will be a key player for England over the next few years, purely because he has the state of mind that he is sure to succeed. Ravi Bopara doesn't have this. What Bopara needs is for a prolonged run in the team backed up by good performances. At the moment, he is getting a run in the team, and those performances are beginning to come. With Morgan set to miss out on the next England tours, Bopara will get a few more opportunities in the side, and has a chance to stake a claim for a regular starting role. However, if he is to become one of the world's best - he must radically change his own mentality - stop being embarrassed and start enjoying international cricket. Only then can he become a Morgan.

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