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Ravi Bopara’s captaincy gives us a leg up

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Today I would like to start off on Ravi Bopara, whose captaincy has been brilliant. He backs everyone, which is such a confidence boost with so many young players around. There’s never an instant where you feel like he’s doubting your ability, whether you’re going well or things are not going so well.

Ravi Bopara has led from the front for Sussex in the Vitality Blast this season (Photograph courtesy of Sussex County Cricket Club)

It’s funny because we were just having a joke: I don’t think many people realise actually how much cricket he has played — over 100 one-day internationals for England [120], he’s played Test cricket [13 Tests] and T20s, too [38]. He’s very knowledgeable and has a very good cricket brain.

To see him execute that chase in the win over Middlesex in the way that he did in the last over just showed how calculated, how switched on and how smart he is about the game.

His bowling is more than useful as well. It may not threaten the speed gun but he is quite effective. I kept saying to him in the start of the competition, “You have to bowl more. You have to bowl yourself more; I think you’re really effective — with your change-ups and also your knowledge of the game and your understanding of certain batters.” It shows why he should definitely bowl at least just three or four overs and have a big contribution with the ball. It helps when you have more options, as you give yourself more opportunity at the back end with our three seamers that have been going pretty well. Hopefully his form with the ball continues, he can keep contributing, taking wickets and putting us in good positions to tie up teams at the back end.

Staying with the bowling, Obed McCoy has come into the group and been an instant hit to back up what he had been doing in the Indian Premier League with runners-up Rajasthan Royals. He showed how good he was in international cricket with West Indies as well, but to see it first-hand and to see him execute the skills sort of straight away coming in was pretty special. Being an overseas player, you want to always start well and contribute to your team. And I think he’s done more than that with ten wickets in three games going into the match against Surrey, including five for 33 on debut against Somerset. In T20 cricket, that’s probably unheard of. He’s definitely come in and impacted the team positively and given Ravi another option at the end, up top and in the middle.

This is a big week for us going into the red-ball break — two big games against Surrey and Gloucestershire. If we could go into the break with five wins under our belt, I think it makes our job that much easier when we come back to qualify. It’s another opportunity to go and spin things around from the Hampshire defeat. Surrey are a good, solid side. On paper, they’re probably the strongest side in the competition at the moment. [Backed up by a seven-wicket win by the home side at Kia Oval yesterday.]

I got my highest T20 score of the season in the loss to Hampshire [32]. It was nice to get a few and execute a few things that I didn’t do as well at the start of the comp. Time in the middle and runs under your belt are always valuable. It’s just a shame that Hampshire got probably 20, 25 too many and we were unable to chase them down. I would rather have those runs contribute to a match-winning performance, but that’s how it goes, although it is good to have a bit of batting momentum. Hopefully that can kick-start my campaign personally and I can put in some performances to help us win and get us through to that quarter-final.

The bowling has worked out pretty well, especially the tactic of having bowling with the new ball — I guess you can say sneaking an over into the powerplay. But also I feel like, and so does my captain, that it is a potential wicket-taking opportunity. I’ve taken one in that first over this year, but it’s a long way to go. As long as [Bopara] continues to ask me to do it, obviously I’ll stick my hand up and say, “Yeah. I’m definitely up for it.” I’ve just got to keep working hard and try to find new ways to take wickets and keep being effective.

It is often said that as England go so too does the county game. That’s why it was good to see England launch the Test summer with victory over New Zealand. The five-wicket win, when for so long New Zealand seemed on top, was important not only in the grand scheme of England cricket, but as the start of a new era with Ben Stokes as captain and Brendon McCullum as coach.

You always want to start well with a new coach, a new captain and also a couple of new faces within the team, within the squad. So it’s only a positive and I think it gives a lot of guys confidence, even if some might have not done as well as they would’ve liked in the Test. It just gives you a boost and it gives you a bit of confidence when your team is winning so that it frees you up a little bit. You’re not so tense and not so worried about “We need a win, we need a win”. With the thinking in management and the way that Ben Stokes is probably going to go about his work with the personnel that he’s got, I think they could take that team in the right direction.

Outside of Joe Root’s match-winning hundred, one of the bright spots for England had to be the debut of fast bowler Matthew Potts. He just came in and looked right at home, really. It didn’t look like he was too fazed about the biggest stage and just came, delivered and executed his skill the way the captain would have asked. Playing against him earlier in the season, he looked the pick of the Durham bowlers on a very flat wicket. It was no surprise to see him take wickets ... take big wickets — getting New Zealand captain Kane Williamson twice — and put his hand up to be involved in that Test side going forward.

On the international scene closer to home, Bermuda should be on their way to Uganda for the second leg of the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League B. It seems so long ago that we played the first leg [December 2019 in Oman] and it is understandable there would be some changes to the squad.

The team is definitely a lot younger, a lot less experienced, but sometimes these things can work out because if you’ve got a young fearless team, they just go out and play with no baggage over their head and no demons against previous opposition. I wish the boys well and hopefully there can be a slot for me to get myself back in soon in the next couple of tournaments. Just go and play with freedom — and enjoy it!

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Published June 09, 2022 at 7:59 am (Updated June 09, 2022 at 2:53 am)

Ravi Bopara’s captaincy gives us a leg up

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