Sunday, November 25, 2007

Shah or Bopara?

According to Peter Moores, the England coach, there is one batting space available in their up-and-coming Test series against Sri Lanka. There are two candidates for the spot: Owais Shah and Ravi Bopara.

As always with this sort of decision, it is not easy. Shah is an established international batsman, and has a strong track record against Sri Lankans in Sri Lanka. Bopara is packed with talent, and famously took England to the brink of victory against them during the World Cup.

Bopara is certainly one to watch. Scoring heavily when so young augers for a successful international future. Also, he has an old head and a proven performer in pressure situations. He also can wobble up with some “handy” medium pacers.

Shah seems to be on form. Having scored a handsome century in the home ODI series against India, and single-handedly saved one one-day match in the recent games in Sri Lanka. His test record is harder to read. He started with a bang, scoring 88 in his first match, and then falling to pieces in his return this summer.

Also, unlike Bopara, he doesn’t have time on his side – at 28 he’s no spring chicken. Whereas Bopara is young, full of potential and certain to have a long England career ahead of him. But, I do not feel that age is a good indicator for selection.

Look at Australia: they have been picking geezers for years and have consistently been wiping the floor with the world. Perhaps English selection policy should re-adjust to reflect the fact that cricketers take a little longer to mature, and most batsman peak during their early thirties. As such, Shah’s best years are still ahead of him, and we’re about to get the best out of him now.

So, on balance, I would back Shah. He is a stylish batsman and an excellent player of spin. Bopara’s record, although superb, is not quite so accomplished as Shah’s and, to be honest, in terms of a test future, it is now or never for Shah.

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