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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 February, 2004, 11:49 GMT
Essex boys in the spotlight
By Oliver Brett

Alastair Cook
From the age of 13 I wanted to be a professional cricketer
Alastair Cook
England under-19 captain

The under-19 World Cup begins in Bangladesh on 15 February and the Nepalese bowlers who England face that day can expect a tough time bowling to Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara.

These two confident youngsters have already had some success playing for Essex, a county who have shown a real desire to capture some of the best teenage cricketers in the country in recent years.

Cook, who smashed several batting records at Bedford School last summer, will captain the England side.

He was given three first-class games by Essex at the end of the 2003 season, hitting 84 on one occasion and registering two further half-centuries to gain a first-class average of 47.80.

He is, however, modest of those achievements.

"It was September, the sun was out, the pitches were flat and it was quite a nice time to bat," he says.

He also spent much of that month learning from Essex's number one batsman and former world number one Andy Flower, a fellow left-hander.

"Watching him bat you tend to pick up stuff," says Cook. "He's very willing to chat and to share ideas."

Cook describes himself as a strong player off his legs who enjoys hooking and pulling but insists he has no particular weakness on the off-side.

One of his first memories is sitting at home watching television aged five during the summer of 1990 when Graham Gooch, now his coach at Essex, scored 333 at Lord's against India.

Cricket continued to be his main enjoyment and his natural skills at hand-eye co-ordination saw him excel at squash and rugby as well.

Ravi Bopara
Those innings made me believe a bit more in myself
Ravi Bopara on his county form in 2003

"From the age of 13 I wanted to be a professional cricketer," he says. "And I lived 20 minutes from Chelmsford so it was always going to be Essex."

Although there are plenty of ex-captains down at Chelmsford in the shape of Gooch, Flower, Keith Fletcher and Nasser Hussain, Cook insists he will use plenty of his own ideas in leading the under-19 side.

"You can look and learn but everyone's going to have their own style," he says.

Bopara, whose parents emigrated from India to east London, played for England under-17 and made his Essex debut soon afterwards.

A right-hander who also bowls medium pace, he rescued Essex from certain defeat against Middlesex last summer with two good innings and hit 46 off just 52 balls when a first-choice Pakistan side were beaten at Chelmsford in a one-day match.

"Those innings made me believe a bit more in myself," he says.

But he has also had to suffer the indignities of being dropped when Hussain returned from England duty or injured players returned to fitness.

"I did question that because obviously I wasn't very happy," he says. "But that's the way it goes sometimes. It makes you more hungry."

His family are "cricket-mad." Dad played some club cricket and when India play England there are some obvious conflicts.

Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman are his role-models but for now playing Nepal in Dhaka is top of Bopara's agenda.


SEE ALSO
Cook to captain England Youth
15 Jan 04  |  Cricket
Teenager sends Notts down
05 Sep 03  |  Cricket
Bopara rescues Essex
07 Jun 03  |  Cricket


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