The Light Roller: Blooming Ravi Bopara has put a spring in ageing steps

Diary of a cricket obsessive

Ravi's rollercoaster may finally be reaching its summit

The tragedy of age is that, when it catches up with you, it generally just accelerates on and recedes into the distance. There is little of that companionable jogging along you occasionally see people do with their shadows in the park.

Yet every once in a while, a snippet of information taps age on the shoulder and brings him hurrying back with a quizzical look on his unlined face, slightly troubled that there has been some sort of miscalculation. The fact that Ravi Bopara is still only 28 is one such titbit.

I am relatively sure there did not used to be as many as six years between Ravi and the Roller. Yet there it is in glorious Cricinfo technicolour.

Bopara has had so many ups and downs since his England debut in 2007 it is no surprise that his career now feels rather permanently at half-mast. Yet he has now passed a century of ODIs and in the last year has averaged over 40 with the bat and around 36 with the ball. Not only that, but in seeing England over the finishing line in Antigua he looked completely at ease with himself.

Fate, of course, needs no more tempting than age. But with an inexperienced line-up around him, we might at last be about to see Bopara in bloom. He is, after all, still a reassuringly young man himself.

Afghanistan are the real winners of the Asia Cup

It is rare that the Light Roller is right. And if push comes to shove it may be agreed that last week's reference to the Asia Cup didn't exactly amount to a prediction of Afghan success.

But the inference that they might turn over Bangladesh seems, in the cold light of wishful thinking, quite plain.  Feel free to judge for yourselves.

Either way, it has indeed been a triumphant week for Afghanistan. Bangladesh were dispatched; Pakistan and Sri Lanka were not allowed everything their own way. And the bowling in particular has been impressive - as has Mohammad Nabi's handling of his attack.

India, on the other hand, remain stuck in the mud.

With Smith and KP internationals no more, the Oval could be the place to be this summer

The corrective to Ravi Bopara's surprising youth was the news of Graeme Smith's retirement from international cricket at the age of 33.

A glance at the stats (an average of 48.49 from 117 tests) provide an ample indicator of his status as a top-class batsman. But his greatest achievement was to help South Africa become the best team in the world, winning 53 and losing 28 from 109 as captain, a role Smith took on after just eight matches in the side and with South Africa still at a low ebb after the Hansie Cronje match-fixing scandal and his subsequent death.

English fans will not remember him with fondness. Quite aside from the fact that he never lost a series over here, he spent too much time - especially as a young man - being snarly and brash. Then again, since his domestic career is due to continue with Surrey there will be plenty of time for the Great British public to take to him. He might even find himself teaming up with that other much-admired South African, Kevin Pietersen.  

Essex need a big season or change at the top will surely come

Paul Grayson, the Essex coach, believes Alistair Cook will find form in early season games for his county. It would certainly be a brave man who bet against it.

But what about Grayson himself? Essex arguably spent much of the 1980s and early '90s over-achieving, given the size of the club. Yet since Grayson became coach in 2007, the county has enjoyed just one season in the Championship's top tier and tasted a single cup success.  As Andy Flower knows only too well, coaches in the end are judged by results. Essex might be a close-knit club but not all members think Grayson quite cuts the mustard. He'll need more than early-season runs from Cook to gain much-needed success in 2014.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor