Cricket: Fifth Test; Regal Ramprakash defies the odds

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The Independent Online
ON THIS tour of the West Indies, Mark Ramprakash has come through a test of character which many cricketers would have failed. After contributing substantially to England's victory at The Oval last August, he had every right to expect he would be a regular member of the side in the West Indies.

John Crawley had been dropped for that Test but by the time England arrived here in January, he had already been pencilled in as the No 3.

Ramprakash was not even considered for a Test place at the start of the tour and if Crawley had been even moderately successful, his chance may never have come.

Crawley's selection was a clear case of nepotism by the powerful Lancashire contingent running this tour. Captain Mike Athertonseems to get his way regardless over just about everything while David Lloyd, the coach, and Bob Bennett, the manager, are also red rose stalwarts. Their choice of Crawley was shown up for what it was; a damaging piece of misjudgement.

There was nothing Ramprakash could do about it except wait. I can think of many who would havementally stopped competing. But not Ramprakash. He kept his composure and his sense of humour, and made sure he would be ready if and when the call came.

In the third Test in Port of Spain it did come. Adam Hollioake's back ruled him out and Ramprakash was chosen but he woke up on the morning of the match with flu.

But still Ramprakash kept his sense of proportion and he continued to work at his cricket. A score of 60 on a spinners pitch against Guyana when it was thought he had been caught behind before he had half a dozen, won him a place in the Georgetown Test. He fought hard in both innings on a difficult pitch for 64 not out and 34.

Now, at Kensington Oval, he has made his first Test 100 to rescue England from what seemed to be an unmitigated disaster. Now that the biggest psychological barrier of all has been eliminated, he will make a great many more runs and hundreds for his country who, I believe, he will go on to captain.

His latest achievement must be seen against this background to be fully appreciated.