I have a lot of sympathy for Ravi Bopara.
But I also think the England selectors made the right decision in choosing Eoin Morgan instead to fill the no. 6 position for the upcoming first Test against Sri Lanka, which starts at Cardiff on Thursday.
There has been much conjecture and rumour in the last few days regarding who would make the cut, and the possible pros and cons for each man.
The IPL has been named as a reason why Morgan may be looked on askance when it came to a final decision – both his having participated in it, instead of playing for Middlesex, and his statement that should he not be picked one option was to return to India and to his Kolkata team.
Three Test centuries and runs for Essex – despite early-season moaning about the heavy roller and Tiflex ball – have been cited by those in Bopara’s corner as to why he should be given another chance in England colours.
In the end, the selectors decided to stick with Ashes squad continuity – and there is nothing wrong with that. Morgan was in Australia as batting cover, though was not called on to play during the Tests. To not include him in the side now would be penalize him when he has done nothing wrong.
The fact he has been playing in the IPL may be a black mark against his name with some, but if Ravi Bopara had been snapped up in the January auctions and if fatherhood had not intervened, who is to say he also would not have played?
In the end, the selection process was a good one. Both men were included in the England Lions team that played against Sri Lanka, and in the end it proved to be a straight shoot-out between them (it was only ever going to be between these two, as there are still doubts over Samit Patel’s fitness, and it is deemed probably still too early for James Taylor).
Chief selector Geoff Miller said before the match: “It has been very pleasing to see many of the players selected for the England Lions squad last winter make good starts to the domestic season and they have been rewarded with an opportunity to play a strong Sri Lankan side and push for further international honours” – an indication that Bopara’s county runs had been recognized and rewarded.
By the time the final decision for the Test squad had been made, Morgan had made 193 in the Lions’ first innings. Bopara scored 17. It would have been interesting to ponder the outcome had the fortunes of both men been reversed in the 2nd innings, but one cannot help thinking that doubts remain regarding Bopara’s ability to perform under pressure and under the eye of those who could guarantee his future. Talented though he is, there are holes that could be picked in Bopara’s international form – and how much does a tally of three centuries against a weak West Indies side tell us, anyway – but ultimately, the only man who can guarantee Ravi’s future is himself.
And on the day that it mattered, he failed.