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Wednesday October 10 2007

My quest for shallow pictures continues, so here’s the shallowest one yet:

image

That’s: 16 games, 24 innings, 2 not outs, 1348 runs, highest score 284, average 61.04.  Five hundred pixels across but a mere thirteen deep.  Shallow!  But just a row of text, so cheating.

Allow me to explain.  (This is English county cricket, by the way.) The above numbers are in praise of Mark Ramprakash, who has had a miracle season for Surrey.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  Those aren’t Ramprakash’s stats.  No they’re not, but at least as remarkable as Ramprakash’s own numbers, Rampswise, are the numbers of the guy who came second.  Second, that is, in total number of runs scored in a season of four day county matches.

So now here are the Ramprakash numbers:

image

That average of over a hundred is getting talked about a lot, especially when you consider that he averaged over a hundred last season also, but the really impressive number is 678, which is how many more runs Ramprakash got in the season compared to Trescothick in second place.  After Trescothick come about half a dozen other guys with much the same total as he got.  Ramps towers above them all.  And Trescothick is in Division Two, with its Division Two bowlers.  Ramps is in Division One, and here the gap between Ramps and number two is very nearly 700.

Interestingly, both Ramprakash and Trescothick are qualified for England, but neither has actually been playing for England lately.  Why not?

Well, Trescothick did not that not long ago.  He starred in the 2005 Ashes series for instance.  But lately he has suffered from some kind of nervous condition about which cricket commentators in the know are reluctant to talk.  In the old days, I dare say they’d have called it Lack of Moral Fibre, but now it’s probably called something longer, less judgemental and more sympathetic.  As other batters step forward, Trescothick’s chances of getting back into the England side diminish.

And Ramprakash?  He also used to play for England, for a while, about ten years ago.  But he never did well enough, and eventually they just got sick of waiting for him to make as many runs as he should have and gave up on him.  England was his level of incompetence, or so it seemed.  See also: Graham Hick.

I know little about Ramprakash’s personality or inner world, but it’s as if he’s always been good enough to play for England, but having failed to get a good start, has subsequently been scared to.  As he’s got older, his chances of being picked again for England have inevitably receded, and so he has felt free to make more and more runs, without the danger of an England place being forced upon him, again.  He is now nearly forty, so an England recall is just about impossible, so the psychological shackles have been completely off.  And yes, I am trying to get linked to from here.

Ramprakash was unlucky in encountering the last flames from the mighty cricket dragon that was the Great West Indian Fast Bowling Assembly Line, i.e. Ambrose and Walsh when they were still all-conquering.  Maybe that put him off test cricket for ever.  I remember how he used to get into the twenties, batting really well, but then he’d get out.

As if further determined to signal his unwillingness to play for England, Ramprakash has also involved himself in Strictly Come Dancing.  Even worse, he won.  Nothing like dancing on the telly to put international selectors right off you.  See also: Darren Gough.  The other telly show they hate is: A Question of Sport.

But of course there is another way to look at it.  Maybe the people in charge of the England team didn’t handle Ramprakash right.  It would be interesting to know what the Surrey coaching staff feel about that proposition.  They certainly seem to know how to get the best out of the man.

I actually snapped a few photos of Ramprakash in action, when I went to the Oval last April.  None of them are very good, because I was there to see Shane Warne.

image

That’s Ramprakash, batting against Warne I think.

image

And that’s him, having been stumped off Udall, walking back to the pavilion.  Just previously he had hit Warne for six, but batting against Warne messed with his mind, I reckon, and he became vulnerable.  The following day, Surrey fell just short of the huge total they were chasing.  They were very close, but you get no points for losing in a close finish.  Had Ramprakash stuck around, who knows?  Surrey might have started their season as well as they ended it.  My guess is that Ramprakash learned from that episode.  In the final game of the season against Lancashire, in which he made over 300 runs for once out, he began his batting by just grinding the bowlers into the ground.  Only then did he, appropriately enough, take them to the cleaners.  Not that I saw any of that.  I just followed it on Ceefax, which is where the shallow pictures also came from.

The good news for me about all this is that in among chasing up Ramprakash stories, I found my way to something called Surrey TV.  Why not watch Ramps on that.  Don’t click on that if you don’t like noise on websites.

The commentator on the piece there about Ramprakash is Mark Church, Surrey’s indefatigable radio commentator.  I first learned about his commentating from Peter Briffa, commenting on this.  The Test Match Special commentators get all the glory, but they work in a huge team.  Church is more often than not on his own.

In other cricket news, England appear to be getting the hang of the one day game.  Compare this today, with this in 2006.  I blogged about that here, with another amazing Ceefax snap.  Trescothick got a hundred in that match and England got what looked like a good score.  But Sri Lanka beat it with twelve overs to spare.  The big difference seems to be the England bowling, which was a match loser then but is a match winner now.  Go Jimmy A.  (See picture number 5 here!)

I was going to make some comment about how once Australian selectors pick someone, they keep faith in them and often they come good, and I was going to bring up the case of Steve Waugh (who came into the Australian side around a difficult moment) and compare with Ramps, but a look at the stats doesn’t really work. Waugh had a career average of around 30 from about the 15 test match point of his career (and he was a useful bowler also before his back injury), about 40 from the 1989 Ashes series (27 tests into his career), and although he was dropped for a year in 1991-2 after another slump following that, he still had a career average of over 37 at the time (44 matches into his career), and it was always seen as likely that he would return to the side, and when he did a year later he proceeded to be the best batsman in the side for much of the next decade. 

Ramps on the other hand played 52 tests between 1991 and 2002. He only averaged 27 over that period, and he simply didn’t improve. Whether it was technique or self-belief or what, I do not know, but he was given no end of chances by the selectors in the hope that he would get over it.  However, he didn’t.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 11 October 2007

I can also find examples where the Australian selectors didn’t persist with promising players. Someone like Michael Bevan played only 18 test matches for an average of 27, was dropped due to apparently having poor technique against the fast bowlers, and then was never selected again despite the fact that it appeared he had fixed his technique and despite the fact that he had a Ramprakash like domestic record and was one of Australia’s best ever one day players.  And the case of Tom Moody is even more remarkable. Moody only played eight tests, and scored two centuries and three fifties in those tests. He scored a mountain of domestic runs, had a distinguished one day international career (he and Steve Waugh were the only players to play in the winning world cup teams of both 1987 and 1999) and had a brief eight test career in which he succeeded before being permanently dropped. 

I am no longer even attempting to make a point here. Just telling stories.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 11 October 2007

Just heard a BBC Five tea-break-between-commentary discussion of who should be in the team to play the next lot of test matches, in Sri Lanka, and one of the cricket journos said: Ramprakash.

He recalled that Tom Graveney was recalled to England when 39, and that he carried on playing for England until he was 42.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 13 October 2007

Interesting point about Waugh and Ramps.  I noticed on some old video the other day that it really looks like he grassed the catch he supposedly took to dismiss Ramps in the fifth Ashes Test in ‘01.

Mainly wanted to mention live chat that will be keeping up with county cricket, Mark Church’s broadcasts in particular.  Starts with the MCC v Sussex, later today, at http://howzaat.pupheadsoftware.com

Are you all the Peter and Brian that email Churchy and tease Daniel Mack in the US?  I’m the obnoxious Portland Oregon Surrey supporter guy…

Posted by Aaron Cady on 10 April 2008

Aaron

Thanks for the comment.  But no we are not the Peter and Brian you refer to.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait on 11 April 2008
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