Sport on TV: Ramps' inner matador runs rings around the Great Dane
Saturday 04 November 2006
You can tell in less time than it takes to fall on your backside whether someone can dance. Darcy Bussell or geography teacher? You know within milliseconds.
And it took only the briefest of clips of Mark Ramprakash in rehearsal to realise it's going to take some nifty moves from his rivals to prevent the Surrey batsman from waltzing away with the 2006 Strictly Come Dancing title.
It would be easy to make jokes about a man wearing a see-through shirt slit to the navel, but even if Ramprakash weren't an Independent columnist I'd still be more concerned with bigging up his hotline to Terpsichore, the muse of the dance, than fashioning a few open-goal gags about his dress sense. It's no accident that after four weeks he's top of the Strictly... league table and the bookies' favourite to succeed his former England team-mate Darren Gough as champion.
Last Saturday's fourth round saw him do the paso doble, a routine based on the bullfight, to a giddy and muscular flamenco soundtrack. "I'm hoping to get in character, be that confident person," he said beforehand. "Whether I have it in me I don't know."
His partner, Karen Hardy, had no doubts. "There is definitely a matador inside Mark Ramprakash," she fervently assured us. "I'm seeing him unfolding before my eyes. He is strong, dominant and definitely powerful. It's the dance of the man - so ladies, watch out what's coming."
Not just the ladies. He was, indeed, fantastic. If I were a gay man or a straight woman, I'd definitely be stalking material; as it is I'm wobbling. As the co-presenter, Tess Daly, asked him, "It seems like the whole nation has fallen in love with you. How are you coping?" He straight-batted with "life's not changed".
It wasn't just the moves; along with the footwork he had a fiery presence, all passion and charisma. After he'd done, and most of Britain was headed for a cold shower, where judge Arlene Phillips had been sitting there was a small pile of ash consistent with an episode of spontaneous human combustion.
"Once again you ignited my fire," she drooled, when she'd been reconstituted into corporeal form. "That was fantastic! The flamenco was strong, taut buttocks - that's what you have to have for a true paso, and you have it all!"
In mid-table, after a passable paso to a Meatloaf soundtrack, is Matt Dawson. Down below, but incredibly not last, is Peter Schmeichel, a graduate of the Arnold Schwarzenegger School of Dance. For a man who was the best goalkeeper ever, Strictly... is another bare, rocky outcrop on the bleak and blasted slopes of his days as an ex-footballer. He's progressed from the fractured phrase-making and sulky spats with Alan Hansen that disfigured his early stabs at punditry, but dancing is another matter entirely, and the otherwise great Dane dances like a Great Dane.
As for Ramps, you can get 11-4 on to win. It's easy money.
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