The Ashes: Australia should have hung on to their senior pros, says Mark Ramprakash

Former batsman says England would have found it tougher against Hussey and Katich

When England take the field at The Oval for the final Test, it will almost feel like a party atmosphere. It is not a sensation with which Mark Ramprakash is familiar, even if he is a great dancer. His Ashes career began and ended at The Oval but coincided with more than a decade of Aussie domination.

His first taste of the great rivalry came 20 years ago this week, just as Shane Warne emerged on to the world stage, and his final Ashes Test was Steve Waugh's last Test in England. For a batsman as gifted as Ramprakash his timing was not good.

He is shocked by how the Australians have gone into decline since then. "I am very surprised," he says. "They seemed to have such strength in depth in the Nineties and early 2000s. They could have put out three Test batting line-ups, they were incredibly strong and seemed to have a production line of batsmen."

Ramprakash blames their latest Ashes defeat on the selectors. "They have got rid of their core senior players too early. I've always believed that in any sport if your core players are good role models they deserve to play. The likes of Mike Hussey and Simon Katich, who are very professional players, very impressive run-scorers, have not been selected. If they were in the team, England would have had it tougher.

"If you've got young players who look like outstanding prospects then by all means throw them in," he adds. "But there have been a lot of question marks about the young players Australia have picked. None of them has really gone on to establish themselves, like Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja; even Shane Watson has not nailed down the opener's spot."

While Australia have gone downhill, England improved dramatically in the last decade and did it in their own way. "The great Australian sides used to bully teams, dominate, score at four an over and set very attacking fields," says Ramprakash. "But England are different, they have come across a formula that works for them and they are playing to their strengths.

"Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott have been prolific at scoring big runs, which allows the middle order to enjoy themselves. They have an established nucleus that is very experienced and they know what it takes at Test level. They can handle the pressures. They are establishing their own era."

Ramprakash hung up his boots last summer after being dropped by Surrey and now coaches back at his former county, Middlesex, and with the England Lions, preparing the next generation of Ashes winners.

One of the hallmarks of England's decade at the top has been consistency of selection, something which was lacking in his day – he was dropped more than 10 times, as was Graeme Hick, who made his Test debut in the same match and, like Ramprakash, scored 100 first-class centuries despite never hitting the heights at Test level.

"There's no doubt that players respond to that consistency," he says. "A lot of debutants have come in and done well. The environment has been welcoming and relaxed for the new players because they feel they are going to get a run in the side.

"The Lions has been a tremendous breeding ground, an educational place, and when the players get selected for the main squad they enjoy themselves."

Ramprakash's Ashes appearances were sporadic but when he did play, his record was impressive; he averaged 42 compared to his overall figure of 27.32. "It's interesting," he says. "I kept coming in for the odd game and I was performing well. The Australians used to have some great bowlers, Warne and Glenn McGrath and, earlier on, the likes of Craig McDermott and Merv Hughes, and they were backed up by some fairly noisy fielders giving you a word or two about how your career's going. From a personal point of view it was a big challenge."

For fairly noisy, read sledging. Like Hick, Ramprakash looked like an easy target to the nearest ranting larrikin. How did he cope so well with what Steve Waugh liked to call "mental disintegration" in the pressurised environment of the Ashes? "It's funny how it works out. For a lot of innings early on in my career I was too tense and nervous. But the challenge seemed to bring out the best in me.

"It's like Tiger Woods, everyone expects him to walk around the course smiling and laughing but that's not his way, he plays with intensity. That's what works for him, that's what has made him so good."

In his first Ashes Test in 1993, he was called up less than an hour before play began at The Oval after Graham Thorpe broke a finger in the nets. He made 64 as England won by 161 runs, their first victory over Australia for six years. In his last Ashes Test, at the same ground in 2001, he scored 133 but by the following summer he had been dropped for the final time.

If he had been given more of an opportunity, he might have danced a victory jig at The Oval too.

You can see Mark in action at The Sick Children's Trust Cricket in the City event at the Honorary Artillery Company on Thursday 12 September. Tickets are available at: www.sickchildrenstrust.org

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

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most