Ravi Bopara has been called up to the England World Cup squad after it was confirmed yesterday that Eoin Morgan would not be fit to play in the tournament. Morgan injured his finger in the one-day international at Adelaide during England's tour of Australia and, although it was initially thought to be just a bruise, further inspection has revealed a crack that requires an operation.
While Morgan mulls over the worst moment of his young international career, Bopara can look forward to the opportunity finally to prove himself as an England batsman. The Essex man has shown flashes of talent since he first represented his country in 2007 but a one-day average of 28.50 shows how he has flattered to deceive.
Bopara will arrive back in England this morning from the Caribbean, where he has been part of the Lions squad. He will follow his international team-mates into Heathrow after those England cricketers who were still in Australia to the end of the one-day series – which was lost 6-1 – landed yesterday morning. Among them was captain Andrew Strauss, looking tanned but tired after a 24-hour flight from the Antipodes. He sympathised with Morgan, who will be badly missed by England despite a poor one-day series in Australia.
"Over the last 18 months Eoin has been the standout batsman for England in one-day cricket," Strauss said. "We all see the World Cup as a forum in which to showcase our skills so he is bitterly disappointed. But it's the nature of the beast that you get injuries; he's a young bloke and there will be plenty more opportunities for him."
Bopara, who has played in the Indian Premier League for Kings XI Punjab, can consider himself somewhat lucky to have received the call. The England coach, Andy Flower, said that while Alastair Cook, Bopara's Essex team-mate who enjoyed a superb Ashes series, had been considered, Bopara's big hitting and medium-pace bowling had swung the decision his way.
Strauss believes Bopara's hunger to prove himself will be to England's benefit. "He has not had a chance to play for us recently; he is desperate to get back in the ranks so this is his opportunity," he said. "We like what he can bring to the team. His ability to clear the ropes in the middle overs is going to be important for us."
If the news was bad for Morgan, elsewhere things are looking sunnier for England. Strauss is confident he will have his first-choice bowling attack – including Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann – available to him when the action begins against the Netherlands on 22 February. "Our attack has been the basis of a lot of our one-day victories in recent times," said Strauss.
"We have had a very settled bowling unit who know their roles and bowl very well together. We missed that in Australia. I believe our bowling attack is a match for anyone. They should all be fit but they need to find some rhythm pretty quickly."
England's short turnaround from Australian tour to World Cup – they fly out to Dhaka on Saturday – may be thought to hurt their World Cup hopes, but Flower refused the chance to get his excuses in early. "We intend to do very well out there," he said. Strauss agreed. "The World Cup will be intoxicating and motivating. Only one team will win, and the thought of that being us is very exciting," the captain said. "If we were to do the double of Ashes and World Cup, that would be the highlight of all our careers."
Strauss warned yesterday that the scheduling of the next three Ashes series – England will host Australia in 2013 before travelling Down Under immediately for the return contest in 2013-14, with another Ashes in England to follow in 2015 – may risk devaluing the event. "There has to be caution that we do not overkill the Ashes," he said. "It would be criminal if it becomes less special than it is now."