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:

Arts and Entertainment
filmPoldark production team claims innocence of viewers' ab frenzy
Life and Style
Google marks the 81st anniversary of the Loch Ness Monster's most famous photograph
techIt's the 81st anniversary of THAT iconic photograph
Katie Hopkins makes a living out of courting controversy
General Election
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders