Ashes pressure put me on back foot says Bopara

London: England batsman Ravi Bopara, left out of the forthcoming Ashes, blames the pressure of last year`s series against Australia for stalling his Test career.

The 25-year-old batsman seemed to have cemented his place in England`s middle-order on the back of three consecutive hundreds against the West Indies, the first coming away from home and the second two in England, during 2009.

However, he suffered a wretched time during the 2009 Ashes as he scored just 105 runs at an average of 15 in the first four matches before being dropped for the decisive fifth Test that England went on to win to clinch the series.

"I think I put a lot of pressure on myself when I went into that Ashes series," Bopara told Reuters.

`Too Hungry`

"Coming off the back of those three hundreds I was on a high and sometimes, once you have had a taste of success, you get too hungry for it and I guess I got a little bit too desperate for more," he explained.

"I said to myself that I had to perform and I kept on going on at myself about it which meant that I put myself under (added) pressure.”

"In hindsight it wasn`t the best thing to do. I should have just gone out and played like I did against the West Indies and not worried about anything."

Bopara has failed to add to his 10 test caps since the summer of 2009 and he missed out on a place in England`s Ashes squad for the series in Australia which begins next month.

Accept Disappointment

However, England`s selectors showed that the Essex batsman is still in their thoughts when he was awarded a contract last month.

Bopara, who fought his way back into England`s one-day team during the back end of their recent series against Pakistan, feels that his ability now to accept disappointment has made him a better cricketer.

"You can never play freely if you are expecting too much of yourself. Any bowler is allowed to get you out and you are allowed to get out for nought.”

"What is important is that you try your best and just enjoy your cricket, like a kid would," he said.

"That`s a mistake I made in the Ashes in 2009. I made it too important. At the end of the day cricket is just a game whether you are playing against Australia or against one of the minnows," he added.

Bopara is currently spending his off-season with South African franchise, the KwaZulu-Natal Dolphins while last winter he spent some time playing for Auckland in New Zealand.

He explained that playing cricket away from the grind of the county circuit has helped him to develop his game.

"In New Zealand and South Africa I`ve had a lot of time to find out a lot about myself, a lot about my cricket and a lot of time to practise my cricket. In county cricket you don`t really get the time to practise.”

"You play a four-day game and then you play a one-dayer. You have a few days` rest and then you are back into a game again so when do you get time for quality practice when you are up for it and mentally ready for it?"

He may not have been picked for the Ashes but Bopara will be keeping a close eye on proceedings in Australia.

"It is quite even (between the two teams) but most Englishmen will say that it will be a 2-1 series to us," he said.

Bureau Report