After 114 centuries and an average of 53… the purists will certainly miss Ramps
22:09 GMT, 6 July 2012
It is more than a decade now since Mark Ramprakash’s England career came to a low-key end, bowled for two by New Zealand’s Daryl Tuffey on an Auckland minefield.
Between that damp squib in April 2002 and the announcement, two days ago, of his retirement from all cricket at the grand old age of 42, Ramprakash uncomplainingly turned himself into the greatest domestic run-machine of the modern era.
And if those 10 years seemed a long time for county bowlers, who may occasionally have felt like members of an audience at a one-man play that was part-history and part-tragedy (but rarely comedy), then the interim also gave Ramprakash the chance to mull it all over.
A cut above: Ramprakash batting in 1990
RAMPS THE RUN MACHINE
1987-2000 – Middlesex, 2001-12 – Surrey
461 first class appearances, 35,659 runs (average 53.14), best score=301no
52 tests for England, 92 innings, 2350 runs, average 27.32, best score=154
18 ODIs for England, 376 runs, 26.85 average, best score=51
114 first class centuries
63 T20s, 1719 runs, average 32.43, best score=85no
407 List A games, 13,273 runs
Just how did a man who finished with 114 first-class centuries and had merry fun at an average of 53 never quite crack it at Test level
‘All top sportsmen look first at what they could have done,’ Ramprakash told Sportsmail. ‘I know that I had opportunities and I didn’t take them often enough.’
As self-assessments go, it is harsh but fair. In 52 Tests, he managed two hundreds and 12 fifties, and finished with an average of 27.32 — fractionally less than England’s current No 9 Stuart Broad.
It was as if there were two Ramprakashes: the relaxed, nimble slayer of county attacks and the insecure fretter of the Test arena.
During one game on that farewell tour of New Zealand, coach Duncan Fletcher told Ramprakash he’d be spared having to bat that evening: England would use a nightwatchman.
‘I swear that I have never seen a more relieved cricketer in my life,’ wrote Fletcher. ‘His appointment with hell had been postponed.’
To his credit, Ramprakash refuses to talk in terms of regret, for — as he knows — that way madness lies. But his more mature self can see things differently. ‘Without a doubt,’ he said. ‘If I’d known then what I know now, of course, of course…’
Century man: Ramprakash celebates scoring his first ever international Hundred against the West Indies in Barbados
He explains: ‘I think one thing I got a lot better at in my 30s was seeing the big picture and being a bit more open to other things off the field, having a bit more of a relaxed approach, which helps your game. I was so focused and had tunnel vision. I’ve dealt with those things a lot better in the second half of my career,’ he said.
And yet the famed intensity of his early phase was never likely to mellow in the England dressing room.
The 1990s was the era of chop and change, short-term fixes and long-term chaos. In Test cricket, Ramprakash filled every slot from Nos 2-7; in 92 innings, he never batted for more than seven consecutively in any one position.
The effect was dizzying — never more so than when he was asked to open against Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose in 2000. ‘I found that decision a little bit strange,’ he said. ‘I hadn’t opened at county level or, indeed, ever. But you do it because you get the opportunity.’
Champagne moment: Ramprakash sprays the crowd with champagne watched by Mark Butcher after England won the fourth Test at Trent Bridge against South Africa in 1998
Ramprakash made 20 runs in two Tests — and was dropped. But the nadir had come the previous year. Ramprakash remembered: ‘The Australia tour had gone very well for me in 1998-99 and then we came home and got beaten by New Zealand. I didn’t play well.
‘We played two games and we were going up to Old Trafford and chairman of selectors David Graveney said I was going to be dropped.
‘I said, “Well, I’ve just been interviewed for the England captaincy, I’ve just scored nearly 1,000 runs in a calendar year and two games later you’re going to drop me.”
‘I think that’s probably the best example I can give you of what life was like in the 1990s and how a player would always feel on trial.
Going strong: Ramprakash celebrates scoring a century for Surrey in 2007
‘I didn’t find it easy just to say, “Well, let me put that to one side and let me go out and enjoy a game of cricket”. Other players did that very well, but I didn’t find that easy.’
The experience undid the good work of his maiden Test hundred, a superb 154 in Barbados in 1998, when Ramprakash enacted some helpful advice he’d received from England’s psychologist Steve Bull.
‘It’s hard, perhaps, for people to understand but when you’re walking out to bat in a Test match, you’ve got so many things going on in your mind other than watching the ball.
‘If it’s at Lord’s, you’re thinking, “Where are my family, are they OK, what are they up to” I think we uncluttered my mind a little bit and got me thinking about enjoying the game — it’s a game of cricket, enjoy the challenge.’
When England’s patience finally ran out in 2002, Ramprakash committed himself to enjoying the challenge at county level. And between then and his retirement he scored an astonishing 58 first-class hundreds.
Despite his struggles this summer, he desperately wanted to play on for Surrey until his contract expired in September and help the team cope with the trauma of Tom Maynard’s tragic death and captain Rory Hamilton-Brown taking a break.
End of the roadL Ramprakash announced his retirement from professional cricket this month
‘I felt strongly that, surely, this is a time when senior players start to help, when the captain is not there, when you draw upon core players,’ he said. ‘I was very keen to do that, but the decision was made.’
So, can there be another Ramps, a player dedicated enough to have a 25-year first-class career and leave youngsters in his wake
He said: ‘If someone has the hunger, the love of the game, the passion, the professionalism, they can play for a long time. Players look after themselves a lot more than they used to. So why not’
Clearly, his modesty has remained intact. He will be missed in more ways than one.