The name Ravi Bopara is well known in international cricket circles. The 38-year-old England frontline batsman has been a good player, but few know how he started taking a liking to the game. Ravinder Singh Bopara was born in London to Sikh parents and was an avid follower of England-India matches on TV.
“I am one of those rare cricketers who started loving the game after watching it on TV. From the age of 10, I got hooked on watching the India-England matches. At that time, I never dreamt of playing for England—but yes, I wanted to play the game at a high level,” said Bopara.
His love for the game soon transcended from the TV to the cricket pitch when his father, Pratap Singh, put him to training in the cricket academy in Hull. At first, Ravi was not keen to go through the tough paces—getting up early, having a tough schedule, etc.—but
Once Ravi developed a love for the game, things became much easier for him. He was soon getting the thrill and kick from playing the game that he soon wanted to transcend to the next level. He was not merely content with being a good junior; he wanted to play for Team England. | ”I was very sure that I wanted to don the England jersey. I was ready to undergo any sacrifice or hardship to achieve my goal,” he said.
Slowly, but surely, Ravi was coming up with good knocks regularly to stake his claim on the England side. Such was his consistency that he earned the right to play for his country when he was selected to play against Sri Lanka in the 2007 World Cup. He made an instant mark with a knock of 53, which earned him the man of the match—a baptism that he will remember for the rest of his life. “To represent one’s country and that too at the World Cup, that was the biggest dream come true. The fact that I was the highest scorer and also was declared man of the match—I could not have asked for anything more, he added.
Thereafter, in England’s home series against India, he was in poor form in three ODIs before finding his mark in the fourth ODI.
Thereafter, Ravi played in the World T20 Cup, where he made an impressive 47 off 15 balls against the Netherlands. His prowess at the shortened version of the game was coming to the fore, but deep down he knew he was more of a Test batsman. “Despite my success at the ODI and T20 levels, I knew that I was more adept at playing in the longer version of the game.”
If his ODI debut was memorable, Ravi’s Test debut was a forgettable one. He flopped in the Test series against Sri Lanka and could only run 42 runs in five innings, which included three ducks. Was he disheartened? “Not really. I am a patient person and knew that success would not be instant. Even after scoring three ducks, I told myself to be patient and that success would ensue,” he went on to say.
Bopara’s conviction and self-belief in his Test abilities came true when, in the 2009 series against the West Indies, he finally scored a cracker of 118. He followed it up with two more centuries and, in the process, became the only and fifth ever England batsman to score three tonnes in a Test series. This sterling show earned him the praise of a lot of England greats, and he was being compared with Kevin Pietersen. There were many who thought that Bopara was the next big thing for England cricket.
But once again, Lady Luck did not smile on him, and his form dipped in the Tests, which allowed his close rivals Michael Canberry and Eion Morgan to make their Test debuts and leave their mark on them. Gradually, his poor form and bad luck ensured that he would never become the terrific Test batsman that he once promised to be.
Ravi Bopara now began to concentrate on the ODI’s, and his decision to do so started to bear fruit. His crowning moment came when he was selected to play for England in the 2011 World Cup in India. ”To be able to play in India and that too in the World Cup was the ultimate experience for me. I had heard and seen a lot about India—but to actually be there for the World Cup was something beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.
Once again, his form was patchy in the World Cup; despite scoring decently in England’s opener against the Netherlands, he was not played in the next three matches. Thereafter, in England’s crucial tie against South Africa, he came when his side was tottering at 15 for 3. He steadied the ship, scoring 60 off 98 balls to be named Man of the Match. Thereafter, he did not score much, as England lost to Sri Lanka in the quarterfinals.
Money was secondary for Ravi—proof of this came when he turned down a 100,000-pound offer to play for Delhi Daredevils in the 2011 IPL in India. “I have been very sure of one thing in my life—that money is important but not all too important. Pride and prestige are more important to me than money. There were so many friends and well-wishers of mine who were disappointed that I blew away the chance to make that much money by playing in the IPL,” he said.
Thereafter, Ravi played in patches for England in ODI’s and finished his international career on a high note, scoring 4000+ runs in Tests and ODI’s.
Today, he leads a happy retired life in London and always dreams of having an association with India. Time will tell what kind of association Ravi Bopara will have with India.