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.

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