DUBAI // Ravi Bopara, the discarded England batsman, could yet play a major role in the future of the national team, according to Andrew Flintoff. The Essex player did not make the squad for the tour of South Africa and was not even among the initial 41 players selected for this winter's England Performance Programme. It was the culmination of a dramatic slide down the pecking order for a batsman who struck three successive Test centuries against the West Indies earlier in the year.
His form and confidence fell alarmingly during the Ashes this year, allowing the Warwickshire duo of Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell to leapfrog him in the plans of the selectors. Luke Wright, an all-rounder who had been regarded as a one-day specialist and a similar type of player to Bopara, has also made the Test squad for the first time. Flintoff, who hinted that Bopara would be better suited to a role in the middle-order rather than No3, believes his progress is only temporarily stalled.
"I'd still look at Ravi. To be asked to bat at No 3 in your first Ashes series is a big ask," he said. "Batting in the middle order might be the difference, but I still see him coming back and playing a major part. "It has the makings of being a good team, it is just a matter of keeping faith with the players."