A county legend, a Test failure: the curious career of Mark Ramprakash

Last batsman to hit 100 first-class tons to retire today – but he leaves with a touch of 'if only...'

Mark Ramprakash was a batsman who started in a bygone age. He announced himself on the stage during a September afternoon almost a quarter of a century ago. Middlesex were in deep trouble in the NatWest Trophy final against Worcestershire at Lord's, a match that was a much bigger deal then than it is now.

"However," as Wisden Cricketers' Almanack recorded, "Ramprakash, two days away from his 19th birthday, took them to within three runs of victory, batting throughout in his cap with confidence, style and a rare charm." The cap was the motif of that innings of 56 every bit as much as the calm majesty of his strokes.

He is the last of the cricketers to have spanned the generations, what might be termed the capped age and the helmeted age. And he is the last, too, to have made 100 first-class centuries. Twenty-four players preceded him, almost all legends of the game like Don Bradman, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Denis Compton, Viv Richards, but none will follow.

There are not first-class matches for the milestone to be achieved again, even if a batsman played until he was 100 years old. Ramprakash is walking into the sunset at 42. He does so not quite as the legend he seemed destined to become that day in 1988. It is almost perverse to suggest that a batsman who played 52 Test matches, scored 114 hundreds and had a career average above 50 was unfulfilled. Yet it could be said of Ramprakash when he formally announces his retirement today.

Through the faults of selectors and his own temperament, the first occasionally contrary, the second sometimes volcanic, he never made the international runs that his expansive gifts and his supremely impeccable method demanded. Only two of those hundreds were scored for England in Test matches, one in Barbados in his 38th innings, the second against Australia at The Oval in 2001 in his 81st.

Perhaps he wanted to succeed too much and therein lay his failure. He was a perfectionist who was hard on himself and hard on others and more empathetic souls would have got the best out of him. Between the start and end of his international career of 11 years, England played 120 Test matches and it could be argued that he should have played in 100 of them.

As it was, he started out in 1991 against West Indies when they were still rampant and, although he made at least 19 in eight of his nine innings in the series, it was not enough to secure a place on that winter's tour. It embodied his international career: potential unrealised. He never sealed a place until towards the end when time was already running out.

Ramprakash spent the first part of his batting life at Middlesex, the second at Surrey, for whom he played more matches and scored more hundreds without ever quite dispelling the feeling that he belonged at Lord's, not The Oval. Lately, on the north side of the river, it is an open secret that he has not been enamoured of everything that has happened. But in county cricket, for whichever side he played, he was resplendent.

It is a symptom of the state we are in that Ramprakash became much more famous as a winning contestant on the television talent show Strictly Come Dancing than he did on the cricket field. But the manner in which he won the competition reflected his batting style, exuding style and a rare charm.

He could and should become an insightful, articulate, charming pundit now, unless he can pass on the secrets of batsmanship to others. The image of the upright boy in the cap at Lord's in September 1988 will never fade.

Ramps: The runs and the records flowed

Test record P 52 Runs 2,350 HS 154 Ave 27.23.

County record P 461 Runs 35,659 HS 301 not out Ave. 53.14

Middlesex 1987-2001

Surrey 2001-2012

Major Achievements

Hit a total of 114 centuries in his first-class career, putting him 16th on the all-time list, level with Sir Vivian Richards.

Ramprakash became the first batsman to record centuries against all 18 counties in June 2003.

He is the only player to average more than 100 in two consecutive English county seasons (2006 & 2007).

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Arts and Entertainment
X Factor winner Ben Haenow has scored his first Christmas number one
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick