Former England all-rounder Ravi Bopara has ended his 18-year association with Essex as he will join Sussex for the upcoming season.
Bopara, while announcing his decision on Twitter, highlighted white-ball cricket as his top priority as he aims to return for the upcoming T20 World Cup in Australia next year.
"I want to thank Sussex for this opportunity. It is a great chance to play under a respected and acknowledged coach like Jason Gillespie and with a very strong and talented team of players, many of whom will no doubt go on to receive international honours.
"I want to emphasise that I am not giving up red-ball cricket but I will, for now, play less of it to find time in the calendar year to up-skill in T20 and take my game to a new level as I still have a drive to play international cricket.”
Bopara started off his first-class career with Essex back in 2002 and went on to score 12,821 runs at an average of 40.44.
He paid tribute to his Essex team-mates, fans and Ronnie Irani, whom he played under for the first time. He also mentioned his ‘greatest teacher’, Graham Gooch, for putting all his efforts and knowledge.
Essex skipper, Ryan Ten Doeschate, paid tribute to Bopara, saying he was a popular figure in the club and added it would be strange to play against him next year.
"I speak for the team when I say we are very sad to see Rav leave the club after 18 years," said Doeschate.
"Rav has always been extremely popular in the dressing room, combining unbelievable talent, skill, hard work, and a great cricket mind with a friendly, witty and comical demeanour.
"He's been a great team-mate and a fiercely loyal friend. I'm so pleased that he leaves on a high after playing the key role in the club winning our first T20 title. It will be strange to play against him next year, but we wish him all the very best at his new Club."
Speaking about the new signing, Sussex head coach, Jason Gillespie said Bopara’s experience will be invaluable to the dressing room.
"I'm really, really excited about having Ravi Bopara join us at Sussex. It's a bit of a coup for us to be perfectly honest: what a wonderful player Ravi has been for England and Essex for a long, long time.
"His knowledge and experience are going to be invaluable in our dressing room. He's a great lad and we're very thankful that Ravi has decided to join us. Players and coaches alike are excited to work with him and learn from him."