Sunday, August 03, 2008


Well Done Ramps!

From the game of politics to the real sport of cricket, I was delighted to read that Ramprakash has made it, aged 38, to 100 first class cricket centuries. Ever since I read about the 16 year-old prodigy at Middlesex, I have followed his career with interest, not losing any when he moved to Surrey to become even more prolific. I saw him play in that classic but, for an English fan, awful, rout inspired by Curtly Ambrose in 1994 when we were skittled out for 46 at the Queen's Park Oval. Ramps was looking quite good, I recall, but was run out, to the crowd's huge delight, for a single figure score. I remember also being part of a crowd, watching him in the nets at Newlands in 1996; we lost again. Oh Lor! Ramprkash and Tests did not seem to go together.

It is a sporting tragedy that Ramprakash, by common consent the best batsman of his generation, only scored two Test centuries in 52 appearances. I once saw him close up at Old Trafford as he came out to bat in a Test: his face was pale and frozen and he barely made it into double figures before feebly surrendering his wicket. It was obvious he wanted to play for his country more than anything else in the universe, but wanting it that much counts for little unless a player can control the nerves which always accompany such intensity desire. Graham Hick, another prodigious run gatherer at the county level, suffered from similar wobbles when wearing an England cap- he scored only 6 centuries at that level and was responsible for equal industrial amounts of disappointment.

The selectors probably did right by Ramps but in the end could not justify such a prolonged incidence of under-achievement. Mind you, I entertained just a teensy hope they might select him this year when he started with such a flourish; it would have been against the grain of regular selections, but then so was Darren Pattinson's and didn't Tom Graveney have a successful twi-light career recall?

Ramps had to wait 11 innings after reaching 99 back on the 3rd May but has reached his ton of tons reasonably quickly in 676 innings. Geoff Boycott will probably gloat, as is his wont, that he 'didn't beat my 645!'[nor, indeed bradman's sensational 295] but it is a tremendous achievement to put alongside his dancing trophies on the mantel-piece. I see that Vaughan has resigned his captaincy after 5 years at the helm. He did well to come back after injury and will go down as the skipper who regained the Ashes in 2005, but his recent run of poor scores was impossible to reconcile with a place in the team; his jumping before being pushed was probably wise. One wishes Gordon Brown might consider a similar move...?

PS Who do you fancy for his successor? I feel KP might just nick it; Strauss has a case for him but his form has been temperamental. And you might say Flintoff has made a bit of a case for himself during this last Headingly Test when he single-handedly manufactured an England fight-back.

I can't see KP in Downing St, somehow.

But if you mean the England team, I suspect it will be KP. I think they will want unify the one-day and test captaincy now Colly has also said he is stepping down, ans Strauss doesn't play in the one day game.

But be careful of what you wish for. Vaughan has won more tests than any other England captain, and captaining a cricket team is not the same as football where the captain tosses the coin and that's it.

If KP becomes captain and loses form the side will be immeasurably weakened. By far the best solution would have been to move Vaughan down the order and allow Bell to come in at 3. With Vaughan being out of form we were always finding ourselves going from 53-0 wicket to 55-2 and the crisis mentality kicked in. Bell would have steadied the ship and allowed Michael to make runs with less pressure lower down the order.

Still... every cloud, and now Yorkshire can at last start to benefit from the talents of Hoggard and Vaughan that have been so sadly missing over the last 6-7 years.
I'd have brought Ramps back into the Test team for last winter's tour and made him Captain following MPV's resignation. He's a much more rounded character now and I am convinced that given the opportunity, he could do a Washbrook/Graveney/Illingworth and enjoy an Indian summer with England. It shold not be forgotten that both Gooch and Stewart made Test tons in the relatively recent past when they were older than Ramps is now.

As for MPV, he'll be back to face the Aussies next year, and probably as Captain. Think Brearley-Botham-Brearley.
Intriguing suggestion re Vaughan being back for the Ashes. He'll have to score more than a few runs to do that though.
The Vaughan comeback scenario would basically involve KP either "doing a Fred" this winter in the West Indies and getting involved in some crazy, drunken incident, or else "doing a Beefy" and completely losing all semblance of form. Neither are out of the question in my view.

Assuming Strauss is still persona-non-grata, the selectors would then be left with the dilemma of handing the Ashes captaincy to Cook - a big gamble - or going back to a proven winner in Vaughan - provided, as you rightly say, he has made some runs for Yorkshire by then.
KP has a number of faults but they are mostly of the hubristic variety; he seems a bit of a reformed character these days even in respect of his ego. I don't think either that booze is a weakness for him so I don't see him 'doing a Fred' personally, but agree it can't be ruled out.
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