Mark Ramprakash: What I've Learnt This Week

1. Umpiring is tough, but you get to joke with Sir Viv
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The Independent Online

Umpiring. Why would you? You can never win. You can do a great job for four days and on the fifth give someone out and he will think you got it wrong. I see umpires these days that I used to play with - which tells me something - such as Rob Bailey, Richard Kettleborough, Nigel Long and Neil Mallender. I've always wondered what I'd be like but I got an idea on Tuesday while batting with Mark Butcher in Swansea. I could have sworn he nicked one down leg but no one appealed. Not sure it's for me!

At Bath last weekend Surrey's Mo Akram appealed for lbw against Cameron White. The umpire, Pasty Harris, gave it but White sighed and held his bat up. Harris changed his mind while we were giving high fives. It's the first time I've seen it but I was at mid-off and thought White hit it so it was fair enough. It was certainly brave.

Over recent seasons I've become more relaxed when at the non-striker's end and I have a chat with the umpire. With Ian Gould I discuss all things Arsenal; with Mallender it's the lack of good young seamers. This week in Swansea I've been talking with Roy Palmer, who has been doing it for 26 years and only has one left before he heads for the golf club and its great Sunday roasts.He told me he's had a great view of some of the best - his favourite being Malcolm Marshall. He once told Viv Richards that if he kept whipping the ball off middle stump, when he missed one he would have to give him lbw. Viv told him he didn't really miss 'em.

2. Father's Day off is a mixed blessing

I was supposed to be playing in the C&G last Sunday, on Father's Day, but I got a call from our coach, Alan Butcher, at 11am on the Saturday saying I didn't have to play. So I happily opted out. Ian Salisbury was at my house at the time and he was told he was needed. So it was off to my eight-year-old Cara's school fête. Parents are meant to help out at these things so my wife spent the day in the Barbie House, while Cara suggested we make a cardboard wall for me to put my head through so her friends could throw wet sponges at me for 50p a go. I've put it on ice until next year. Hopefully I'll have a fixture!

3. Benning's basics benefit our boys

Surrey played Gloucestershire in a fantastic one-dayer last Sunday. James Benning, our 23-year-old bat, hit 189 off 129 balls in a losing cause, smashing 28 fours and four sixes.

"Himbo" is an uncomplicated talent with amazing hand-eye co-ordination. Peter Carlstein, a South African coach based in Perth, had a motto: "Kiss", for "keep it simple, stupid". Benning certainly does that. We were chasing 339 and wickets were falling but he just kept on going. He told me he felt "in the zone". His attitude is just as direct in all forms of the game.

4. The one-day side is in a mess

That brings me to England and their failure to get hundreds in one-day cricket. It is one in the last 17 matches now. It may be a bit early for Benning but in other countries he would be thrown in. England also need to stop blaming injuries, as the Sri Lanka captain, Mahela Jayawardene, pointed out. We have the biggest pool of first-class players, but we seem to be stuck between picking the best XI for now and the best XI for the future.

5. It's easy to be all at sea in Swansea

I arrived in Swansea for our Championship game and called Ally Brown for directions. "Keep the sea on your left," he said, "and you'll see the floodlights." He also said he'd wait at the entrance. I found the ground but couldn't find him or the way in and kept going around the one-way system. Half an hour later I realised I was at the football ground.

Swansea is a charming outground with a lovely view to the sea from the pavilion. But the changing-rooms are not the biggest. Rikki "Crouchy" Clarke and Mo Akram were changing in the showers, and I was in the toilet area. It's been a long four days.

Last year against Glamorgan Mo got a nasty cut over his eye while fielding. On Tuesday while Martin Bicknell was using the Swiss ball to warm up Mo whacked it with his bat only for the bat to bounce back and hit him in the frARace, giving him another gash above his eye. Then in the field he dropped a catch and split a finger. He's vowed not to come "overseas" to Wales again!

6. Owen blow is any pro's nightmare

We watched England in the hotel bar on Tuesday night and I felt so sorry for Michael Owen. The worst thing for a professional sportsman is not being able to take part. It was a cruel, cruel blow.

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