A talented, wristy strokeplayer, capable of opening the innings or batting in the middle order, Ravi Bopara has been a regular member of the England set-up for several years without ever making himself indispensable. He made his first international half-century in his fourth innings, at the 2007 World Cup, but suffered a disastrous debut Test series in Sri Lanka later that year. Three consecutive hundreds against West Indies in early 2009 rebalanced his ledger, only for a difficult Ashes experience to again cost him his place, and he remained on the fringes of the Test side. His form in limited-overs cricket, where his medium-pace bowling is also a useful option, has been more consistent, with a series of increasingly mature displays under the ODI captaincy of his Essex team-mate Alastair Cook.
In 2002, aged 17, Bopara earned a professional contract with Essex and immediately established himself as a name for the future. He made his first-team debut the same year, playing three Championship matches before being picked for the Under-19 World Cup in 2003. Three tears later, his county form was rewarded with a place in England's preliminary squad for the 2006 Champions Trophy and the Academy squad to be based in Perth during the winter's Ashes series.
After impressing the selectors, he made his ODI debut against Australia at Sydney, and claimed the wicket of Mike Hussey to help England kick-start their trophy-winning campaign with a 92-run win. A fortnight later at the World Cup in the Caribbean, he showed impressive resolve and class in his maiden one-day fifty against Sri Lanka, albeit in a losing cause. He was one of only a handful of England players to emerge from that tournament with their reputation enhanced, but injury prevented him from building on his success at the inaugural World Twenty20.
Another encouraging display for England in their one-day series against Sri Lanka in October 2007 led to his call-up to the Test squad and he was picked to make his debut in the opening match at Kandy ahead of Owais Shah. It was, on reflection, a tour too soon for Bopara, who scratched 42 runs in three Tests, including three ducks in a row, and was axed the following January. But 14 months later, after flitting around the fringes of the ODI team, he seized his opportunity when Andrew Flintoff flew home from the Caribbean with a hip injury. Picked at No. 6 for the Barbados Test, he responded with a classy 104. Though omitted from the subsequent Test in Trinidad, to accommodate an extra bowler, he was recalled at No. 3 in the return series in England two months later and responded with hundreds in each of his next two innings, at Lord's and Chester-le-Street, to emulate the achievement of his mentor, Graham Gooch, in 1990.
A decent showing in the subsequent World Twenty20 confirmed Bopara's place for the Ashes series that got underway in July, but not everyone was impressed with his cock-of-the-walk attitude. After mustering 105 runs in seven innings, he was dropped for the series decider at The Oval, where Jonathan Trott exceeded that tally in a single knock. Two years in the Test wilderness followed, as Eoin Morgan moved ahead of him in the selectors' thoughts, before a return as cover for the injured Trott in the third and fourth Tests against India. Bopara looked on from the sidelines in the UAE as England's batting failed disastrously against Pakistan in 2012 but first a side injury, in Sri Lanka, and then a thigh muscle tear ahead of West Indies' visit, barred him from another crack at Test cricket.
When it came, in the South Africa series after some impressive ODI innings against Australia, he quickly withdrew from the squad for personal reasons. He returned for World Twenty20 but still did not seem mentally attuned, as England meekly surrendered the title they won in 2010. His contribution in the 2013 Champions Trophy was more noteworthy, though he couldn't see England home in the final against India. Later that summer, he made his maiden ODI hundred in Dublin, but an Ashes trip to Australia (where he did not play a Test as England were whitewashed) suggested a player whose time might have gone.