Secret of my success? A winter out of the nets

Independent columnist Mark Ramprakash has been voted Player of the Year by his peers after averaging over 100 with the bat. Next he is to put on his dancing shoes...
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The Independent Online

On Monday night I felt chuffed to bits and very proud to win the Players' Player of The Year at the Professional Cricketers' Awards in London. There were lots of people who had very good seasons so it was special to receive the accolade: Mushtaq Ahmed was outstanding for Sussex; Ian Bell hit three consecutive Test centuries, which was a magnificent feat, and John Crawley once again proved what an excellent player he is by scoring bucketloads of runs for Hampshire.

People keep asking me why I have had such an excellent season. If I knew I would have done it 15 years ago and if I could bottle it now I would.

It could come down to several things.

For the first time in my career I didn't practise during the winter and was not particularly looking forward to the season. I think it was a hangover from getting relegated from the Championship at the end of the previous year.

But what sticks in my mind from pre-season is a meeting the whole Surrey squad had back in March. We met at the Oval and we put some issues out in the open. Alan Butcher, our coach, handled things really well while we discussed what we could do better as individuals to improve the team harmony. We then went to Mumbai for a week's training and did some quality work as a group. By the first game we were all in a decent frame of mind.

We also welcomed back Mark Butcher, who had been injured, and to have him there at the helm helped me. We made the Oval our stronghold and tried to adapt better when we played away from home. We set the tone in our second match of the season with a good win away to Leicestershire.

Individually, I had an important innings in that match that kind of set me up. I got a hundred on the first day facing the bowling of Mohammed Asif and Stuart Broad on a low, slow pitch. I really had to graft and be patient. Experience helps in those situations. After that innings the next knock came easier.

Other things helped, too: It has been a cracking summer in terms of weather which helps when batting and has in turn produced good, true pitches. Also, I am now very relaxed at the crease so I use less energy and can bat for longer periods of time. It is something the Australian opener Justin Langer touched on when he hit 342 for Somerset against Surrey this season in the Championship.

Obviously, there were also times I had Lady Luck on my side; I might have nicked one and been dropped or played and missed a few times but managed to capitalise on that. As Mike Gatting used to say: get a few in the bank for a rainy day.

Gatts will be able to give me advice for my next venture, too, as believe it or not he is a competent Ballroom dancer and I am taking part in the television show Strictly Come Dancing. When I first got the call I said "No" straight away. Then the guy from the BBC said sleep on it. All I've done for 20 years is play cricket so I thought, "Why not try something different?" and hopefully I can have as much fun as Goughy did.

The year of the Ramps

RUNS

Scores 2,278 first-class runs, including eight centuries, at an average of 103.54 to help Surrey win promotion.

ACHIEVEMENT

He is only the fifth batsman to average more than 100 in an English summer. The others are Don Bradman, Geoffrey Boycott twice, Graham Gooch and Damien Martyn.

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