Ravi Bopara is the sort of man who you imagine steps on a lot of rakes. A good batsman, handy bowler, and by all accounts fairly amiable chap, Bopara just has the unfortunate knack of just being a nearly man.
For a player so obviously talented as he is, Bopara's England career has never ignited as it should have. Part of it has been down to his personal behaviour and attitude, but it's also been down to his being at the right place, but often at the wrong time. And his failure to grab hold of the opportunity when the chance presents itself.
After being in and out of the test team following his 2007 debut, the three consecutive test centuries in 2009 should have been the launchpad for him being a mainstay in the England team for decades. With Bell out of the team and Bopara bang in form, Ravi had the chance to nail down his place and become a test regular. However, he didn't seize the opportunity, and was out of the team before the Ashes series finished. Thanks to the rise of Jonathan Trott and the resurgence of Ian Bell in what became a very well settled England middle order, Bopara didn't get another chance for another two years.
After the 2010/11 Ashes, Paul Collingwood retired from his spot in the England middle order. Bopara, more mature and worldly wise by now, chose to turn down the riches of the IPL to stay and fight for the test position. His direct competitor, Eoin Morgan, went off to the IPL, but hit 193 for the England Lions against Sri Lanka, and made the spot instead. Again Ravi had to wait.
In the second test against India, Jonathan Trott rolled his collarbone, and was ruled out of this third test. This time, Ravi was sent for. And on a day where Cook made 294 and Morgan made 100, Bopara failed, with a scratchy looking seven. Trott will most likely come back in for the fourth test, and with England's middle order looking incredibly settled, Ravi may have another two years to wait until he gets his next bat in a test for England. And with James Taylor, Jonny Bairstow and plenty of others floating around who may usurp him in the pecking order, it's not inconceivable that this is the last test Ravi Bopara plays.
To be a successful test cricketer, you have to take your chances when you get them. The prime example of that is Tim Bresnan - a man who's never nailed down a permanent position in England's test team but averages 45 with the bat and 24 with the ball. He's almost made it impossible to be dropped. At a time where England are looking set to dominate world cricket, chances will be few and far between, and Tim Bresnan's seized the opportunities given to him with those big hands. Ravi Bopara, however, hasn't done that. Test cricket is a harsh place at the best of times, but with England's pool of talent so strong at the moment it's positively ruthless. On his day, Bopara can be an excellent batsman, but he just hasn't proved that for England. He may get another chance in the future and take it, but until then, Ravi Bopara will be the ultimate unfulfilled talent - England's nearly man.