Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
England all-rounder Ravi Bopara has admitted that he felt “empty” and “frustrated” at being left out of the national team for their recently concluded two-Test series against Sri Lanka.
Bopara recalled how he was walking back to his hotel room after the ODI series against Sri Lanka and realised that he wouldn’t be needed for the Test series, which, in his opinion, was “a huge anti-climax”.
“A lot of the other lads were going off to prepare for the Test series,” Bopara told ESPNcricinfo. “They were excited. They were talking about it. They still had a buzz. And I wasn’t involved. I woke up feeling this hole inside me knowing that England was over for me for a bit and I was going back to county cricket. It’s really hard to accept.
“Look, I love playing for Essex. I really do. But there’s nothing like playing for England. It’s the ultimate. And once you’ve experienced it, it’s very hard to accept anything less.”
However, Bopara conceded that his Test record has to improve if he is to regain his spot in England’s Test team. Bopara has represented England in 13 Test matches and averages 31.94 with the bat.
“I feel frustrated,” Bopara said. “I’ve not been able to show my full potential to a wider audience. I was doing OK, but then the Ashes of 2009 didn’t go well for me and I haven’t got back in for any length of time.
“I’ve shown glimpses. But I know I haven’t done myself justice and I really want to do it. I mean, I really want it. I want to play innings people remember. I know I can do that and I would love another opportunity. But there’s no point hoping or moaning. I’ve got to make sure I do it by scoring heavily in county cricket and making it impossible for them not to pick me.”
Bopara also revealed that he has learnt a lot by spending time with people outside the cricketing world.
“I’ve been disorganised in the past,” he said. “That’s true. But it is the past. I’m working harder than ever now. I did feel, for a while, as if I lost all my energy. But I’ve rediscovered that. I’m honestly more determined and focused than ever.
“I was very lucky to spend some time with some successful people outside cricket,” he says. “I don’t want to say who they were, but I’m talking about business people. It wasn’t organised by Essex or the ECB. It just happened, really, and it’s lucky that it did.
“They showed me the habits and characteristics successful people need to have. They showed me how organised you have to be and how calm they were under pressure. They were so determined and so positive and the whole experience made me a better cricketer and a better, more honourable man. Why? Because now, if I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I’ve learned a lot.”
Bopara has not played any Test cricket since the first Test against South Africa in July 2012. Following that match, Bopara stated that he needed to take a break from cricket due to personal reasons.
“Being a cricketer is not like a normal job,” he said. “If you work in an office you might leave home early in the morning and be back late at night, I know. But we go away for months at a time and that can cause a lot of problems. The schedule isn’t conducive to normal family life. If there’s something going on that needs sorting at home, well you’ve got to go and sort it.
“It’s not exactly that I put cricket before anything else, it’s just that it is who I am. Cricket makes me who I am. It’s more than what I do; it’s what I am. So it is number one for me. Family is more important, of course, but I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t a cricketer. It’s a non-negotiable part of my life. I have to put it first.”
Bopara is one of the few cricketers in the England set-up that did not attend a private school. As a result of that, he is hoping to become a role model for kids in his position.
“There is so much talent out there,” Bopara said at a Chance to Shine event in Birmingham. “And there is so much love for the game. I was lucky in that my mum and dad played a massive part in my development. They took me to games, they encouraged me to train. They did whatever needed doing and I wouldn’t have made it without them. Parents are the key.
“But role-models have a huge part to play, too. There has been a bit of a shortage of players from West Indian circles in the English game in recent years, so it’s great to see Chris Jordan coming through. He is going to be a big star and hopefully he can encourage a lot more kids to play the game.
“Can I do that, too? I’d like to. I really would. I’m seeing a lot more kids from ethnic backgrounds in the grounds and if I can inspire one or two to take up the game, well, that would be brilliant.”