Cricket: Ramprakash discovers the Boycott within

MARK RAMPRAKASH did not make a run in the first Test at Edgbaston, or take a catch, or get a bowl. But he had an interesting match.

Alex Tudor's 99 made the difference between the two sides and Ramprakash, as Tudor's netting buddy, has rightly been given a slice of the credit. He is a senior member of the England set-up now. It's official: in the team photo, Ramprakash is sitting on Nasser Hussain's right. England never name a vice-captain in home Tests - don't ask why, it's just another of the game's delightfully illogical traditions - but if they did it would probably be Ramps, who was Hussain's only rival for the captaincy.

Over the past 18 months Ramprakash has been England's top Test batsman, with 989 runs at an average of 39.56. (Don't read too much into the fact that no one has managed 40: the first Test of the period was the infamous one at Sabina Park, the last at Edgbaston, and there were a few other terror tracks in between). After eight years as an England player, and eight occasions when he was dropped, Ramprakash has finally cracked it at Test level. Or has he?

When he strung together a few scores for the first time, in the Caribbean the winter before last, and crowned the sequence by striding out in a crisis at Bridgetown and making 154, it seemed as if everything had fallen into place. He was even a useful change bowler in that series, spending the many spare moments he had early on the tour getting John Emburey to hone his off-spin. Ramprakash appeared to have banished the stage fright and found a way to convert his intensity directly into runs.

Usually when players take ages to make their first Test hundred, they immediately add a second, London bus fashion. Mike Gatting's first two tons came in consecutive Tests in India in 1984-85, and Steve Waugh's first two hundreds came in consecutive Ashes Tests, at Headingley and Lord's in 1989. In the case of Ramps, the second ton is threatening to take as long coming as the first. Thirteen Tests have come and gone since Barbados and there have been six fifties from Ramprakash, but no hundreds.

Too much should not be read into this either. A couple of times he was stranded by England's useless pre-Tudor tail. The worry lies more in the way he has batted. He has turned into a master blocker. When it comes to preserving his wicket, he is among the best in the world, up there with the leading defensive technicians in the best Test teams, Jacques Kallis and Justin Langer.

Against South Africa last summer, Ramprakash hung around for 16 and a half hours and was only out eight times. In Australia, in the same number of completed innings, he lasted just over 21 hours. He has become the sort of Test batsman they don't make 'em like any more, a Barrington or a Boycott. His duck at Edgbaston, with attacking fields and a fast outfield, occupied 27 balls.

Ramprakash's catching at cover and midwicket is often inspiring. It contributed to the two great victories last summer, with three catches at Trent Bridge and one at Headingley. His batting seldom has the same match-turning effect. He is a very good Test batsman with only one fault: he needs to find a higher gear, a way of not merely wearing the opposition out, but walking all over them.

He is a fixture in the side and seldom in recent years has anyone so deserved to be. But the slot he has been given, at No 5, may be the wrong one. In the middle order, you have to be able to attack as much as defend. If Ramps remains locked in they-shall-not-pass mode, he should swap places in the order with Hussain. At the moment, dropping down the order may be the last thing on Hussain's mind. But No 5 or 6 is a good place to run things from - ask Steve Waugh, Hansie Cronje, Clive Lloyd, Allan Border or Viv Richards. Hussain has also forced himself to become a barnacle in order to establish himself at Test level. But as his imperious second- innings at Edgbaston showed, he remains in touch with his inner dasher.

There are two other things England could do for Ramprakash. When they eventually return to the one-day game in 2000, Ramps must be restored to the team, from which he has been mysteriously ostracised. It would loosen the stays. And his fielding alone would save more runs than some of the batsmen selected ahead of him have scored.

Secondly, they could tear up that old tradition and make him vice-captain now. He is sufficiently like Hussain to echo him when necessary, but he is also different. Ramprakash is a doting father these days, and there is a gentleness in his intensity. He could be the nice cop, and let Nasser be the nasty one.

Tim de Lisle is editor of Wisden Cricket Monthly.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference