Ravi Bopara: Essex relish being underdogs and it makes County Championship Division One title extra sweet
PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 October 2017
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Hainault & Clayhall cricketer reflects on successful academy set-up at Chelmsford and his own highlight of the campaign
During an unbelievable 2017 season, Essex managed to beat Yorkshire comprehensively on two occasions, defeat rivals Middlesex with an innings to spare and thrash Surrey by eight wickets and Ravi Bopara admitted it felt extra sweet because the club were always punching above their weight.
What Chris Silverwood’s side have achieved in the County Championship Division One is like Leicester City winning the Premier League and Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest doing the same in the old First Division.
Bopara, who made his debut for Essex 15 years ago, has seen a lot during his career with the club and is so proud to be part of the squad during this latest title-winning moment.
“We are all so close and we have a lot in common. We share a lot and there’s a lot of honesty in the dressing room as well,” said the former England man.
“The good thing about playing for Essex is when the youngsters come through the academy, they feel this is home.
“We are a small club and we do punch above our weight, but I think everyone relishes that and it is a nice feeling to do that when you go out to play.”
Bopara is one of the many players in the Essex squad to have progressed through the academy and played in the Essex Leagues.
The 32-year-old even found time to play for Hainault & Clayhall in 2017, while Dan Lawrence and Jamie Porter both featured for Chingford, Nick Browne represented South Woodford, Adam Wheater turned out for Woodford Wells and Sam Cook helped his side Chelmsford win the title!
It highlights the outstanding academy at Essex with James Foster (Wanstead) and Varun Chopra (Ilford) two more to have came through the ranks.
Bopara added: “We have a very good youth system at the club and the academy keeps producing good players.
“A lot of them go on to play for England, so the ratio is brilliant, which means we must be doing something right.
“There is also a lot of belief in any person that comes into the squad and they just get on with it.
“We don’t have any of what I would call ‘old-school stuff’ where you have a hierarchy, so there is none of that.
“Everyone is equal in our dressing room whether you have played 15 years for the club or if it is your first season. We are all the same, all equal and all respect each other.”
Since Bopara’s debut back in 2002, he hasn’t hit many better knocks for Essex than the 192 he crunched during an innings victory over Warwickshire on their way to the title.
But the former Brampton Manor student played down his big hundred when asked what his stand-out moment was.
Bopara said: “The 192 was good, but probably the fact we won 10 games beats it because that is a massive highlight.
“There is no better feeling than winning and when you keep winning and winning it is great and you are actually spending less time in the field, which is quite nice.
“It has just been a brilliant all-round performance and every moment has been a highlight for me.”