Tuesday, 11 August 2009

State of England

Justin Langer's dissection of the English condition was the best thing in the papers this weekend, but even JL, frothing away at his keyboard in sunny Somerset, didn't pick up on one of our greatest traits: our telling weakness for the past.

We don't have a word for it, but the Portuguese do. It's saudade, which means something along the lines of 'nostalgia for a time and place that never really existed'. 

It's a very English concept when you think about it, and it's the one behind the calls for Mark Ramprakash to come back. There's a tremendous romance about the idea, for several reasons. Firstly, English cricket loves its old warriors - Washbrook, Cowdrey, Close, Steele, all called up for a last mission in front of the guns. We trust that concept for exactly the reasons Australia mistrust it: for what it says, for what it means. 

Ramprakash also embodies the desire for a happy ending, the need for reality to match up to the kind of redemptive storylines you get in novels and films. The weight of his fame [which comes in part from his success on reality TV] plays into it, too, as does the British sense of fair play. All of those runs must amount to something, after all. 

But is is nostalgia, it is romance. Ramprakash and Graeme Hick were my  favourite English players of their era. They mean more to me than Atherton or Hussain or Stewart; I'd rather watch either of them get 40 than see Thorpe get a hundred. They were special in their way. Ramprakash's achievements over the last four years have a great nobility about them because they've been built by his pure love of batting. 

Yet if Ramps played at the Oval, it wouldn't just be about England needing a number three. It would be about the baggage he brings with him, his own and ours. We'd be asking him to bat not for his future, but for his past. And that's a very English thing.

NB: Strangely, the one way it might work would be if Ramprakash were not the only change, and Key went in ahead of him. That would skew the expectation, redistribute the pressure more evenly, make it less about either of them and more about the team as a whole. Wonder what JL would do...


6 comments:

Leg Break said...

Ramps isn't the answer.

You guys should try something really radical. Like picking Trescothick for example.

Beersnake Baby said...

"Ramprakash and Graeme Hick were my favourite English players of their era. They mean more to me than Atherton or Hussain or Stewart; I'd rather watch either of them get 40 than see Thorpe get a hundred."

Aww...I could give you a big wet snog for that! Exactly my feelings too!

John said...

I have a suggestion for No.4 - perhaps someone could "channel" him !


http://johnjemi.blogspot.com/2009/08/bring-back-dolly.html

Patricia said...

I loved your article and once again you really summed up my feelings about a possible England call up for Mr Ramprakash in a very thoughtful way. As you took me through your argument it felt true, logical and absolutely right. Brilliant again.

I also think that Key and Ramps together would be an excellent pairing in the England team.

Sean said...

"Ramprakash and Graeme Hick were my favourite English players of their era"

You see thats the problem, I want to win you want to fcuk about.

fine players they were and are, but test cricket is not a test of your technical ability first and foremost. its a test of mental aptitude, or can you deliver the work at the required test standard....answer for hick and ramps as bell and maybe Bopara (but i have not given up all hope on him yet) is NO.

Carberry and Morgan are the players needed.

Langer should be made coach.

The Old Batsman said...

LB - if only!

Beersnake, Patricia - we may yet have our day...

John - am liking the cut of his Duncan Fearnley... now that was a bat...

Sean, I take your point, but I don't think the oval will be any place for debutants. No slur on the ability of carberry or morgan, but Key has a test double hundred and ramprakash averages 40 against australia - when they were good (albeit when he was young, too!]