Thursday, 11 October 2007

Ramps poised for England recall?

Regular readers of this site will be well aware of my great admiration of Mark Ramprakash, and my calls for him to return to the Test side. Happily, the calls are growing ever louder, with Mike Selvey suggesting today he may well be selected for the Sri Lanka tour.

We know he's failed in Tests before. And we know he's 38. But, would Australia obsess over his age and past failings (an irrelevance to winning cricket matches)? Or would they pick the best possible side to win in Sri Lanka?

A number of Aussies - including Damien Martyn, Matthew Hayden and even Steve Waugh - have done superbly after being recalled. Their selectors seem unconcerned by age - for how long have they been labelled 'Dad's Army'? - and just get on with the business of winning. And that is what England now need to do, ending their ridiculous obsession with a) youth and b) the Ashes. Besides, come 2009 Ramps would actually be younger than both Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart were when they ended their careers.

In averaging 100 over consecutive seasons, an unprecedented achievement, especially with England's Test batting far from convincing, his case is irrefutable. And, as well as being more mellow, the crucial fact is that he is actually a better player, technically, than when he last played for England in 2002, having improved his trigger movements to give himself near-perfect balance. His dexterity against spin, as he showed in scoring centuries off Mushtaq Ahmed and Shane Warne, would be invaluable in Sri Lanka.

It is risible to suggest there are six better batsmen in the country. That is all that should matter.


River Taff End said...

Tim, another good piece and I don't think that any of us believe that there are 6 better batsmen in the country. In fact, in county cricket, Ramps is peerless.

I just don't see how they can recall him though.

We are nearly within 18 months of the next Ashes battle. Should we be picking teams for the here and now (in which case he should be in) or is each series part of a process which builds to next major 'peak'?

I hold Ramps in high regard, but I have to go with the latter implication i.e. we can only really pick players who are in the frame for Ashes 2009, and I don't see him in that frame.

Tim said...

The odds are we'll lose to Sri Lanka. Picking Ramps, in my view, would increase our chances of winning - and hence I would select him.

The Ashes are the pinnacle, but they are not the be all and end all: I want England to win every series they play in which, after all, is what Australia aim to do. I just don't understand the logic of constantly looking to the future. We are an average Test side so surely it makes sense to pick our best possible side, thereby ultimately helping to build up the aura which was prevalent in 2005.

To give an Aussie example, Darren Lehmann did little in 02/03 and then did not play in 2005. But he was brilliant in Sri Lanka in 2004; and, therefore was worth picking even though unlikely to make the next Ashes.

Soulberry said...

Hi Tim,

Do you post on 606? I think I might have run into this article there.

I know it is tempting to recall Mark after his Bradmanesque season, but I wouldn't.

England is moving forward the right way. They have established the nucleus for a very strong side. One or two spots may be up for grabs depending upon the situation.

I feel this set of players are far better than some of the English teams that visited these parts in the 90's and early 2000's. I'd rather back them here and for 2009.

It's tragic that Mark's best comes when he is all but out of the game. If Strauss is considered the weak link, maybe there's a case for Ramprakash.

Nick Gammons said...

Once again you make a good case, Tim, and pose a real dilemma. With Cook, Vaughan, Pietersen and Collingwood certainties, and Bell very likely, there is a last slot in the batting line-up. It can be filled in a number of ways, of which Ramps could be one:

1. Give Strauss a last tour to redeem himself.
2. Throw a fit Flintoff back into the fire at 6 in the hopes he will remember how he batted in India.
3. Promote the batting wicket-keeper, whomever it may be, to 6.
4. Pick a new opener to partner Cook.
5. Open with Vaughan and put a number three batsman in - Shah would be the obvious choice, but Ramps could fit the bill.

Of all these options number 5 is the most sensible, but Shah must have his chance. He has proven himself in the ODIs and did nothing wrong in Tests in India. He plays spin well and is coming to his prime. However, I would not be upset to see Ramps in the squad or even the starting XI.

Innocent Abroad said...

Many years ago, the Very Reverend E.W. Swanton said (I quote from memory) that the best way to build for the future is to pick the best side to win the next Test Match.

I think that is what Australia do.

Uncle J rod said...

He would certainly improve the overall dancing skills of the top order.

Stuart said...

I do wonder about the value of picking someone who would realistically only have a year or two left (even if he was successful at the top level).

Having said that, Tom Graveney (one of my favourites) played 24 tests and scored over a third of his test centuries after being recalled at 39. It can work - but it would be a risk. Interesting piece Tim - well written again.

Richard Lake said...

I'd agree largely with Nick's assessment. Picking Ramps would effectively end Shah's test career and the form that he has shown in ODI cricket shows that he must be considered the next in line.

Ramps has had a couple of excellent seasons with the bat but he has shown time and time again that he isn't cut out for international cricket.

Chrispy said...

Have to say though Ramps is in phenomenal county form, Shah is deserving of a run in the side, he plays spin very well and is a confidence player. Build his confidence and I think he will get better in both forms. Drop him and knock that confidence and I think the effect will be witnessed in ODI's, in which he has begun to establish himself.

It will be interesting to see what England do though, it is unlikely that they would go into a match with only two seamers and two spinners, plus collingwood, if they indeed play Swann as second spinner I think we could yet see Nick's number 3 theory with a longer tail, not something we really want though.

My closing comment would be simply Rob Key? He prehaps also is a better player now, though I doubt Sri Lanka is the best place for him to make a return.

Tim said...

Lots of debate - good to see!

I like Shah but Ramps has been in quite amazing form - I don't think we appreciate that enough. He has not merely continued to churn out runs - he has taken his batting to a whole new love, basically doubling his 'normal' county average (50) in the last two seasons. If the side is truly representative of the nation's talent, as Rob Steen said, he must play.

allrounder said...

You make a convincing case, Tim, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to put myself in the 'no to Ramps' camp.

He's had a couple of great seasons, but I still don't think he's cut out for international cricket. He's been found out too many times, has scored only two Test hundreds, is probably too old to make a lasting impact - and, crucially, would get in the way of the development of other players, viz. Shah, Bopara.

Horses for courses is fine, but we have players who can play spin, and those who can't so well (Bell, Cook) could do with honing their technique. And, as far as know, Strauss still has a central contract. I'd even give Key another crack at showing his quality, myself.

When John Crawley made it back into the side in 2002 after a four year absence, he did okay (two fifties, one hundred), but nothing more. Ramps, like Graham Hick, has made a considerable career from smashing county attacks about the place, but neither could quite make it at the next level. I don't think the debate should be reopened.

Tim said...

Allrounder - Hick, Crawley and Ramps all consistently averaged 50-60. Ramps has basically averaged double that for two consecutive seasons, which shows he has made some major improvements to his game. I don't think we can afford to overlook him.

Spaceman! said...

Hes been averaging more than anybody else by a long way in CC for the last 2 seasons. He has looked far more relaxed than ever before and he is enjoying himself. So we have the ashes in 2 years and he'll be 40, big deal. Age is really not much of an issue, players can caryy on playing for longer and longer, without losing any of their potency, batsmen especially. And lest we forget, Ramps has always bought his a-game when playing the aussies. If recalled, he can do a damned fine job for england for another 2, 3 years.