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
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly finalists Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge
tvLive: Simon Webbe, Caroline Flack, Mark Wright and Frankie Bridge face-off in the final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
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

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'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture