NATIONAL selector Geoff Miller has defended the decision not pick Essex batsman Ravi Bopara in the England Lions squad for the tour of the United Arab Emirates next month.

Bopara has been making runs in Auckland this winter, since being dropped from England’s Test and ODI teams.

But Miller is convinced the time is not right for the acid test of Bopara’s rehabilitation.

“Ravi went away to sort himself out, get his game back together — and we thought the best way to allow him to continue was to leave it to the end of the winter, and then revisit it back in England,” said Miller.

“We’ve kept an eye on him — and he’s been playing pretty well.

“We hope he'll come back and be the force he was before he had his bad trot.”

Miller stressed the lines of communication with the likes of Bopara are always open — because England have no interest in allowing rich talent to go unfulfilled.

“It’s not a snub. He’ll know the situation — we always keep in contact to let people know just where they stand with us,” he said.

“We don’t want to lose the talent of Ravi Bopara — and we think this is the best way for him to come back refreshed.”

Lions skipper Andrew Gale will lead a 15-man squad to the United Arab Emirates between February 10 and 26.

l England Lions squad: AW Gale (captain, Yorkshire), IR Bell (Warwickshire), MA Carberry (Hampshire), MJ Lumb (Hampshire), JWA Taylor (Leicestershire), C Kieswetter (wkt, Somerset), SM Davies (wkt, Surrey), PD Trego (Somerset), JC Tredwell (Kent), AU Rashid (Yorkshire), SI Mahmood (Lancashire), CR Woakes (Warwickshire), ST Finn (Middlesex), SP Kirby (Gloucestershire), DJ Wainwright (Yorkshire).