Tuesday, 12 May 2009

More Ramps, more soul

Lawrence Booth is another trying to unpick the soul of Mark Ramprakash, in a nice piece over at Cricinfo. The first Ramps hundred of the season can have that effect on a man.

In it, he draws attention to Nasser Hussain's effort on Ramprakash in Wisden. 'Mark,' Nasser asks from the wispy pages of the great yellow book, 'How can you still have the appetite for this?'

The question is more revealing than the answer, because it's a question predicated on the primacy of Test cricket. Its implication: once you've played Test matches, playing other games just isn't worth it.  

Setting aside the fact that asking Nasser Hussain to write about Mark Ramprakash is a bit like asking Dan Brown to write about Martin Amis, the notion that Ramprakash is compensating for his international failures with a long and bloody-minded mea culpa etched into the cricket grounds of England is underestimating both the complexity of the man and the game. His batting's not so much a mea culpa as a love letter.

Geoffrey Boycott has scored more first-class runs than anyone since the second world war. When he was forced to retire, he said he'd give up the rest of his life to have five more years at his best. It took cancer to draw the fire from that idea, but he says he still never picks up a bat because he finds it too painful. Any thought that Boycott's Test runs mean more to him than his Yorkshire runs gets short shrift. Boycott loved to bat, and I think Ramprakash loves to bat too.

Nasser Hussain was also a complex man, riven with self-doubt, some of it justified. His relationship with his father was key to his game and his personality. He let cricket go with a sense of relief, and after captaining England the relief was understandable. But Hussain wasn't Boycott and Boycott wasn't Ramprakash and Ramprakash wasn't Tendulkar and Tendulkar wasn't Steve Waugh and Steve Waugh wasn't Damian Martin. 

They all let go - or will let go - of the game differently, and the game occupies different spaces in their lives. There is no common experience there. Perhaps Mark Ramprakash is tortured. Perhaps he is unfulfilled. But perhaps he just loves to bat. Perhaps he knows that once he stops driving the ball so beautifully, once he stops making all of those hundreds, the feeling will never come back, will never be available to him again.

The aforementioned Martin Amis, another tremendous stylist, was once asked to play a game of snooker against another writer and do a piece about it. He wins the match, but ends his story: 'As for the snooker, to approach the televisual ideal by which we all measure ourselves, I'd have to do nothing else for the rest of my life. Then snooker might work out and measure up, with everything going where you want it to go, at the right weight and angle. Then snooker might feel like writing'.

For writing and Amis, substitute batting and Ramprakash. For Mark, I'd guess, it just feels right.


Patricia said...

This is a wonderful article, so clear, so thoughtful, so calm amd so perceptive that it feels true. It is also calm and measured as you build up your argument but also amusing and so clever.I am running out of superlatives! Please tell me. Who is the writer?

Brit said...

Great piece - and I do like "asking Nasser Hussain to write about Mark Ramprakash is a bit like asking Dan Brown to write about Martin Amis".

No mention in Booth's article about Ramps's successful stint on Strictly Come Dancing, which said something about him, surely.

Hick and Caddick are other interesting (head) cases.

The Old Batsman said...

Thank you both. He got another hundred in the FP today. Three in four innings.

Apparently he's got a book coming out soon, so it'll be interesting to see what he says about the Strictly show in that. One thing's for sure, he holds the record for most hundreds scored after winning a reality TV dancing contest. Goughy didn't score any.

BTW Brit, from Hoggy to Nick Cohen in two evenings?! Both stalwarts of this land...

Brit said...

Absolutely. I like to mix it up a bit. You know.

(And yes, Ramps emphatically put the Glosters' glorious run to an end.)