Cricket: Bopara in doubt despite star role

By Robin Scott-Elliot

The scuffles that broke out in Bangalore on Thursday as 20,000 people scrambled for a third of that number of tickets for India's game against England can have left Andrew Strauss' side with little doubt as to the frenzy that will surround the game tomorrow.

It is an atmosphere Ravi Bopara is happily familiar with, and one in which he is convinced he can thrive - if given the opportunity.

The Essex all-rounder helped to prevent his county colleague Ryan ten Doeschate from inflicting an embarrassing defeat on England in their opening World Cup game against the Netherlands with a timely cameo.

Bopara's 30 off 20 balls ensured England scampered home, but he may not even make the side tomorrow as England consider playing two spinners.

Michael Yardy's slow slingers would give Strauss a valuable bowling option and Bopara remains the most likely to drop out should the captain and Andy Flower decide on a change.

Bopara's Indian experiences may help keep his place, though, as his time in the Indian Premier League has enabled him to become well-versed in subcontinental conditions.

On his last trip to Bangalore he made a bristling 77 from 50 balls for Kings XI Punjab, for whom he has played two seasons.

"Without a doubt it's definitely made me a better player," said Bopara. "It's made me more confident coming to the subcontinent.

"I just know what the pitches are likely to do. You can play a different way to the way you play in England. You can certainly be a little bit more aggressive against the seam bowling. They are just generally better pitches to bat on. I wish I could bat here every day.

"It definitely won't intimidate me. I've played in this atmosphere before, in the IPL and last time we were here with England. It's very noisy. You can't have a conversation with the players on the pitch - it's all hand signals and that sort of stuff.

"But ... if the crowd are enjoying it, it pumps you up as well, because you want them to enjoy it. At the end of the day, you're an entertainer."

England provided plenty of the wrong sort of entertainment against the Netherlands.

"We will need to raise our standards, particularly in the field because we were like a bunch of schoolboys," admitted Graeme Swann.

- Independent

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