Saturday, 9 May 2009

Ramps: Harbinger of Summer

The summer feels like it started, really started, this week. Mark Ramprakash made his first hundred of the new season. It was a late entry for the Bloodaxe; he was serving a ban incurred at the end of last year, perhaps the last real flaring of that famous temper. It was his 104th first class hundred and there are more to come as the wickets lose their green and the bowlers of England surrender once again to the majesty of his batting.

The epic coda of his career, these last few years of three-figure averages and unmatchable elegance, are the story of man paying his dues for his talent. No-one who has seen him bat for Surrey can feel shortchanged. Along with Kevin Pietersen, he has been the best player in the land.

The adjective that attaches itself to him is 'unfulfilled'. It's both fair and unfair. Ramprakash was unfulfilled by Test cricket, but not by the game. His career, and that of Graeme Hick, with whom the gods decreed he should share a Test debut, will become viewed as two of the last great careers of the pre-Twenty20 era. They might be the last men in history to score a hundred hundreds. 

Somehow it seems right that they should be tied together: one man who wanted it too much, another who didn't really want it at all, and who both arrived instead at a lower-key mastery, a day-in-day-out excellence that had its own demands. Is there anyone who would deny that lesser batsmen have had more success in Test cricket? Would anyone rather watch Nasser Hussain or Mike Atherton play?

The careers of Ramprakash and Hick are significant because cricket is about more than just Test matches, just as it's about more than just ODIs or T20. After all, they have both made enough Test bowlers look foolish in county cricket. 

Ramprakash also demands that we examine the notion of talent. It's just not good enough to say that his has somehow not been maximised. That's lazy thinking. As a pure exponent of the art of batting, he has excelled. You could show a film of him to anyone who has never seen the game and say, 'this is how it was meant to be done'. In achieving that, Ramps has paid his debt and left his mark. Catch him now, before it's too late.  


Q said...

Interesting.. we at BCC! have been discussing and dissecting Ramprakash all week.. there are some interesting views and stats worth looking at.. take a look:

The Old Batsman said...

Have found that really interesting Q - It's fascinating to know how he's perceived outside of England (and inside it too). He really is emblematic of a whole era of English cricket.

Q said...

He surely is.. might even go down as one of the legends of county cricket, if he isnt already.