Bopara keen to make up for lost time
Ravi Bopara is impatient to show England how much he has improved since he last played for his country.
Bopara can expect an early chance to demonstrate the benefit he has derived from playing for Auckland and then in the Indian Premier League this winter.
Kevin Pietersen’s predicted absence from England’s first ICC World Twenty20 warm-up match against Bangladesh, after spending time at home with his pregnant wife, means there is likely to be a vacancy at number three on Wednesday.
The venue for that match - the Kensington Oval in Barbados - is further reason for Bopara’s optimism, since it was there little more than a year ago that he made his maiden Test hundred, the first of three in succession against West Indies.
The 24-year-old admits it might have been a “blessing in disguise” to spend a winter out of the England reckoning, because it gave him valuable time to work out what went wrong in last summer’s Ashes and how to put it right.
He is confident he has made the most of his international sabbatical. “Naturally, I lost a little bit of confidence from not scoring runs in the Ashes,” he said.
“I always expect a lot of myself and maybe I ended up putting a little bit of pressure on myself; maybe that was the big mistake I made at the time.
“But I’ve learned from that experience and come back stronger and a better cricketer - and I hope I can show it in this World Cup.”
Bopara did not allow himself to think too hard about his loss of form last summer, instead concentrating on how he could get back into the England team - permanently.
He added: “I think you can put pressure on yourself thinking about those sort of things.
"I’ve just gone out and tried to play my best cricket (in the winter), and thankfully some of that has paid off and got me the call-up here.
“I did see the IPL a bit as a shop window. If I did well out there, there was always that opportunity that I could get called up to this T20 World Cup.
“I knew exactly what I needed to do. I spoke with (England team director) Andy Flower before going away to New Zealand, while I was out there too, and I told him I knew what I needed to do as a cricketer.
“I asked him for his opinion, and he said, ’I think you should do this’. I mixed them both in together, and right now it’s brought me back here.
“I knew I’d had a bad trot. But there have always been these other technical issues I’ve always wanted to address but felt like I never had the time - because when you’re in competition, you don’t want to be changing too much.
“But the time I got in New Zealand and IPL to actually work on those things has really, really paid off. I’m very happy I did what I did.
“I don’t think we play enough Twenty20 cricket as English cricketers, so for me the IPL has been a brilliant experience. It might have been a blessing in disguise that I didn’t go on the winter tours.”
The challenge Bopara is relishing now is to make up for lost time, by taking his opportunity - first to get back in the team and then to stay there.
“It was fantastic getting the news that I’m coming out here,” he said. “I’m really delighted. It’s time for me to make that step again and make myself a regular and really make a difference in this competition.
“I’ll be serious throughout my career. I want to play international cricket; I want to make a difference on that stage.
“We’ve got a busy schedule this summer, and I’d love to be part of that. This is a great opportunity for me to make my mark and go on and play this summer.”
There can be no better start than reproducing last year’s Bridgetown form, albeit in a very different format.
“There are good memories for me here,” he confirmed. “I know this is not Test cricket, but I hope I can do something which is the Twenty20 equivalent of that hundred I scored here.”