Essex batsman Ravi Bopara has finally penned a deal that commits the stylish right-hander to another two years with the county.
Negotiations to conclude a deal had become somewhat protracted although Essex first team coach Paul Grayson admitted he always believed the player would continue with the club.
“The signing of Ravi’s contract has been an ongoing problem throughout the close season due to a number of factors such as his compensation package with IPL being resolved and of course Ravi currently playing cricket over in South Africa,” said Grayson.
“The signing of the contract was never in doubt, I’d been in regular contact throughout the past couple of months but it was something that just took time.”
With the recent capture of Owais Shah from Middlesex and with Bopara’s immediate future now settled, Essex can look forward to having one of the most potent batting line-ups in Division Two.
“I can tell you now that promotion back to Division One heads our list of targets for 2011,” Grayson added. “That’s where we want to be playing our cricket and Ravi is a massive part of that.
“We haven’t been scoring enough runs in the past in Championship cricket and we just want to get more runs on the board to give ourselves a chance of getting maximum batting points. That will then give our bowlers the confidence to bowl with a big total behind them.
“We have now made three very good signings for next season with Owais Shah, Ravi and Scott Styris who will play for us in the for the Twenty20 competition and it’s great for us that we’ve got all three who are excellent cricketers.
“No disrespect to the other two, either, but Ravi is the best signing we’ve made. He is a massive player for us in all formats of the game, and he’s a very popular member of the team.
“He’s also one of our own lads, he’s been with the club since he was a youngster and, obviously, we wouldn’t have wanted to lose him. He wants to get back into the England set-up and we believe we can help him achieve that.”
Grayson also revealed that there is the prospect of a further signing should Bopara, Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate all play in the IPL as anticipated. “If that were to happen, we would be looking to bolster our squad by the addition of an overseas batsman,” he said.
“We would get compensation from the IPL and would put that towards getting in a replacement until the three of them return. We have a list of potential players and we’ll be sorting something out over the next few weeks.”