RAVI Bopara could give Essex an early season boost after he went unsold at last week's Indian Premier League auction.
It means the England all-rounder is now likely to be available to play county cricket for the opening two months of the domestic season.
Head coach Paul Grayson said: "It's nice that potentially Ravi is going to be available for us at the start of the season and when you add the other guys in to that; we've signed [Rob] Quiney and then there's [James] Foster and a couple of others, as well as the development of [Tom] Westley and [Jaik] Mickleburgh then we're looking good."
And Grayson says he'll be challenging Bopara to pile on the runs in a bid to reclaim his place in the England Test team.
"One or two people are questioning if he can cut it at international level and there's no doubt he's got the talent to do it, he just has to perform consistently well," he said. "That will be the challenge from me to him: to dominate division two cricket for us next year and to make some big scores and win matches.
"If he does that he could find himself back in the Test side but it looks like at the moment that one or two people are in front of him and he's going to have to fight hard to get that place back."
With Owais Shah and Ryan ten Doeschate away at the IPL Essex have struggled to get off to a consistent start in recent years and Grayson is hoping Bopara's presence can help the club to build up a decent early lead in LV> County Championship Division Two.
"We started OK last year but if you can get off to a really good start and off to a bit of a flier on the other teams it can give you a lot of confidence for the season," he said. "That's what happened to sides last year that went up, particularly Derbyshire – they got a very good start and no one could really catch them."
But there's still a chance that Bopara could still end up going to the IPL.
"There's no guarantees that he's going to be available," said Grayson. "Teams get injuries and one or two people drop out and they look through the list to see who might be available and I guess Ravi is quite appealing to quite a few teams; he's a fine cricketer, he bowls in Twenty20 cricket, he's a good fielder and we know that on his day he's a fine batsman as well but from a selfish point of view I hope he's here."
This week Essex have named Derek Bowden as their new chief executive, he replaces David East who has taken up a similar role in the UAE.
Bowden brings a wealth of experience from both the business and sporting worlds.
He was the CEO at Ipswich Town and during his time at Portman Road successfully restructured the finances of the Championship side. He also spent more than 18 years in various senior management roles at Saatchi & Saatchi.
He said: "I'm really looking forward to joining the team at Essex and working with them to create the success that Essex Cricket deserves."