I never stopped believing - Bopara
Ravi Bopara never doubted he would get another chance with England despite admitting that a winter looking in from the outside took its toll on his morale.
If Bopara’s absence from the Ashes squad may not have come as a great surprise given that he has not played Test cricket since 2009, his disappointment at being passed over for one-day duty in Australia was compounded by his subsequent omission from the World Cup party.
Having spent a largely successful two months before Christmas playing South African domestic cricket for the Dolphins - a move designed to catch the selectors' eye - Bopara’s disappointment was understandable.
However, Eoin Morgan’s broken finger prompted England to turn, once again, to the Essex all-rounder, who landed in Bangladesh today with the remainder of the 15-strong squad to complete their preparations for the World Cup.
“I’ve had a lot of down moments this winter, not seeing my name in any of the squads, but that has just made me more determined,” Bopara said.
“At no stage did I think ‘I’m not going to get a chance again’. I knew I was going to get my chance; it was a question of when it would happen or when I would create it.
“This is a difficult side to get in to now, the way the team has performed all year in all forms of the game. So it’s matter of being ready when the opportunity arises.”
News of his call-up may have taken Bopara by surprise - he admits he did not know Morgan was injured until he was informed by England performance director David Parsons while on duty for England Lions in the Caribbean last week - and he revealed any joy was quickly replaced by a desire to seize the opportunity.
“You take it in your stride,” he added. “Those kind of emotions come into it when you are first picked for England. Now it’s like ‘right, I’ve got another opportunity here’, and then you start to think about how you are going to perform.
“I’m disappointed for Morgs. He’s a good mate of mine and you don’t like to see that happen to your mates.
“It’s weird how your mate misses out and you get a chance - sport’s like that - but for me it’s a chance to get cracking again and I’ve got to focus on that.”
Bopara featured in the Twenty20 and one-day series against Pakistan at the end of last summer, but his failure to make a big enough impression saw him dropped - a repeat of the scenario that unfolded during the 2009 Ashes.
Far from having his appetite diminished, the 25-year-old claims those setbacks served to strengthen his resolve.
He said: “When you are first left out you think you can’t be any more determined to win your place back, but every time it happens it makes you even more.
“Then when you get left out again, you think ‘there’s no way I can be more determined than this. This is it. I’m going for it here’, and you do all in your power to stay in.
“Then you don’t get picked for something else and you step it up again. You just keep going and keep pushing yourself to do a little bit more.
“You might think there’s no more to give but there always is a little more inside you.
“Each blow each time you don’t get selected makes you more determined. County cricket is very challenging but I want to play at the highest level.”
Bopara’s words reflect a steely determination to better himself - and go a considerable way to proving the growing maturity of a player who readily admits his attitude off the field may not have helped his cause in the past.
“I am laid back in most situations; I don't worry about little things in life,” he added.
“I have always worked my socks off on the training ground; it was outside where I was a little bit unorganised.
“A good example is me being late for meetings or forgetting my passport. I have rocked up when we are leaving to go somewhere and I have not had my passport. Those sort of things have counted against me.
“I was the sort of guy who takes every game as it comes. But I have done a lot over the last year, become more organised in life, getting things into order, my time-keeping and that sort of stuff.
“I have put reminders on my phone. I write things down now to make sure I remember them. That passport stays in my jeans pocket now - it is like my wallet.”
Bopara, in his own words, is “match-ready” as England prepare for warm-up matches against Canada on Wednesday and Pakistan on Friday before flying to India for their first competitive fixture against the Netherlands in Nagpur on February 22.
And he has no doubt that England, the current World Twenty20 champions, “have the players to win the World Cup”.
“We have the batsmen to score the runs and bowlers who can take wickets with pace, bounce, swing,” Bopara said.
“Over the last couple of years our guys have become very clever with their bowling, which showed at the T20 World Cup.
“Hopefully we can take advantage of what we did in the T20 World Cup and take that confidence into this one.”