Let's Be Honest, Ramps Just Isn't Up to the Test

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 14, 2009 | Go to article overview

Let's Be Honest, Ramps Just Isn't Up to the Test


Byline: Jason Cowley

SO FOR one more time, for one last time, is it to be Mark Ramprakash for England? The heart says yes while the head demands that the selectors resist the calls of sentimentalists everywhere and say emphatically no.

Ramprakash -- so gifted, handsome and complicated -- is the great unfulfilled talent of English cricket, at least where it matters most, at the highest level. In 52 Tests for England he averaged only 27, a disappointing return for such an accomplished player.

To watch him play with such freedom and authority for his county and then with such inhibition and anxiety for his country was to understand the importance of temperament in sport -- some players of more modest ability, such as Nasser Hussain or Paul Collingwood, have the capacity to will themselves to succeed while, sometimes, those of more extravagant gifts, such as Ramprakash or Graeme Hick, allow themselves to be defeated by expectation.

In the sports psychologist's argot, they aren't mentally tough enough. Yet Ramprakash has been the best player in county cricket for more than a decade now and he has improved with age, achieving late career majesty.

Since the batsman moved to Surrey, in 2001, he has become an engine of run accumulation, scoring century after century, season after season: a contemporary Bradman of the county scene, yet poignantly watched by hardly anyone at all.

It's been said that his taking part in Strictly Come Dancing in 2006 helped him to become an even better player: for so long perceived as being intense and unusually introspective, Ramps, in the arms of his sexy dance partner, finally discovered his inner showman and learned publicly how to relax.

Sports fans like nothing more than a romantic comeback, in the style of Lance Armstrong in this year's Tour de France, or an improbable, time-defying final flourish, such as Tom Watson's brilliant near miss at The Open at Turnberry. …

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