Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The performance or the stage – Ebren

Being a batsman is a strange occupation. You are a patient accumulator, a defender, but one expected to exert aggression and your will on an ever changing attack.

In an argument between those with willow and those with leather in their hands it was pointed out that the bowlers do the work – they think, vary, change line and length, pace and angles toiling for and forcing breakthroughs. And then Atherton looked up and said "but as a batsman you only have one chance".

The psychology of the men with armoured plating and armed is often baffling, but some aspects are universal to sports. Pressure. Concentration. Performance. Numbers.

Another universal sporting consideration is the stage. A man scoring six goals on his Newcastle debut will never be lauded as highly as one scoring a hat-trick in the FA Cup final.

And so the question remains – how important is the stage and how important the performance? Especially in the case of Mark Ramprakash.

Last season the man who is without a doubt one of the two finest cricketing dancers scored 2,000 first-class runs for the second season in a row.

He did this with an averages of 103.54 and 101.30 – becoming the first man ever to average over 100 in two consecutive English seasons. And there have been a lot of English seasons.

The sheer weight of numbers stack up to make Ramps a contender for one of the greatest batsmen in the world. Going into this season he has scored 30,333 runs in 400 first class matches. In 379 List A games he has banked 12,195 runs. Arguably as impressive is his average of 36.18 and 977 runs in Twenty20. All told, he has 111 centuries, 220 50s (including seven in 34 Twenty20 games) in county cricket.

In short he has excelled at every form of the game – except internationally.

His last Test cap came in Eden Park, at the end of March in 2002. He scored 9 and 2 – both times dismissed by Daryl Tuffy in the form of his life.

In between his 1991 debut against the West Indies (alongside fellow newcomer to the English side Graeme Hick) and his Eden Park finale, Ramps batted 92 innings for the Test side, averaging just 27.32.

12 ducks in 52 Tests spoke far more loudly than his centuries against the West Indies attack of Ambrose and Walsh and Australia's McGrath, Lee and Warne. His ODI career was less glamorous still. Just 18 caps averaging only 26.85 with a solitary half century.

And so – like Hick – Ramps will never be a great. Because in sport the stage matters more than the performance.

But as he lines up against Lancashire tomorrow he is within touching distance of achieving another milestone. Ramps only needs three more First Class centuries before he has 100 of them. And then he will join a list of very few players indeed. So far only 24 batsmen have managed it:

Jack Hobbs, Patsy Hendren, Wally Hammond, Phil Mead, Herbert Sutcliffe, Geoffrey Boycott, Frank Woolley, Graeme Hick, Len Hutton, Graham Gooch, WG Grace, Denis Compton, Tom Graveney, Donald Bradman, Viv Richards, Zaheer Abbas, Andy Sandham, Colin Cowdrey, Tom Hayward, Glenn Turner, John Edrich, Ernest Tyldesley, Les Ames, and Dennis Amiss.

And, probably in a few weeks, Mark Ramprakash. A great county player.


mimi said...

I'm on the point of bedtime - this is a school night Ebren! But fine peice and I will return with comments of more sense than just Ramps to go!!!

Zephirine said...

Ah, Ramprakash.... like Bell, he divides opinion... what's mystifying is that he makes those big scores in county cricket when the opposition bowlers are international quality, not just against the journeymen. But put him in a Test match and he's never been able to do the same thing.

I think winning the TV show did make a difference to his mental approach, but sadly it's come too late in his career. I was in favour of picking him for the NZ Test series, since Vaughan, Strauss, Cook and Bell were all playing such lousy cricket he could hardly have done worse. But it was not to be, and now 3 of those 4 have posted big scores and his last chance must surely have gone.

Another side to this coin is the batsman who makes his name with one high-profile innings on the big stage, and then has to live with the expectations that he'll do it every time. Tim Ambrose springs to mind.

andrewm said...

I think that more of it than most would like to admit comes down to luck.

guitougoal said...

Nothing great has ever been achieved without luck.
Lucky Lucke.

Margin said...

It is a shame that some one as consistent as him has never quite excelled on the big stage - and of course that raises questions about whether he benefits in County cricket from a lower standard of bowling and fielding.

But the stats are pretty phenomenal and raises the very real possibility that his England record is down to something other than ability.

Some teams in sport have an ability to make the ordinary look great, while other teams do the reverse. England were awful for much of Ramps' career despite some excellent players and that can't simply be a case of misjudged talent.

on a more scandelous note - anyone know why Marcus Trescothick reallly quite international cricket?

Ebren said...

Cheers for the comments guys.

Ramps has just hit a century in his first innings out this season. Against Mahmood and Flintoff*.

A test attack at a test venue.

Gotta love him

Another Ex Englander - Butcher - is currently on 80.

* Chapple, Newby, and Keedy might also have bowled

Zephirine said...

Margin, there have been stories about Tresco's wife having an affair, but it seems to be a genuine mental/nervous condition - he gets ill when he's away from home and has done since he was a kid. Don't know what sort of ill, panic attacks maybe.

MotM said...

Ramps and Butch - 38 summers of First Class cricket behind them. I hope Saj is learning!

Zeph - I think you're right about the panic attacks. And I think it is leaving home. If so, Tresco should play the home series: I don't like that normally (and wouldn't advise for Harmy) but it's not like Tresco hasn't tried or isn't good enough.

The only problem would be the ovation on walking out to bat - it did for Bradman in 1948 after all.

mimi said...

Ramps is just the strangest of conundrums. Played fantastically well for his county, got selected, couldn't turn it on in the same way for England. Dropped, went back to county and did the biz. Then went on Strictly and in front of 5 million or so won! The shy man was able to dance and wear revealing costumes.

What can you say??

Margin said...


I have heard the various rumours about his wife and Vaughan - But as far as I know its just gossip nonsense.

wisden greengrass said...

Some cricketers are no good at playing away, perhaps because they suspect that their missuses are far too good at playing away.
We had a bloke like that in our dominoes team at the Nag's Head - he could only perform with his missus behind the bar.

Margin said...

Thats odd

I know a fair few guys who can only 'perform' when their wife is safely not present.

mimi said...

~I never hear any of the salacious gossip until it's well past its sell-by date! Where do you lot get your info from??

Zephirine said...

The way Trescothick announced his international retirement sounded mostly as if he wanted to put a stop to all the speculation about a possible England return.

I see the Ramps-for-England v Ramps-is-useless-at-Test-Level debate is replaying itself yet again in the GU threads. I wish the ECB'd just pick him for the NZ tests and then we'd all have an answer:)

In fact, I wish they'd pick him and he'd score 175* wearing one of his Strictly Come Dancing outfits. Is there a rule about correct attire for Tests? I suppose there must be. Shame.

Zephirine said...

Haven't Tresco and wife split up now? But he still got the heebie-jeebies and couldn't get on the plane to Dubai, so...

wisden greengrass said...

Is Tresco thick? Any reasonably intelligent person would know that the right thing to do when the wife has done a runner is to get on the first plane to Dubai.

mimi said...

I don't understand!!! What is the goss, does it matter? Is it stuff like Slats had to deal with on the Gilchrist front?

Zephirine said...

Mimi, there's a persistent rumour around on the net that Mrs Tres had an affair with Vaughan, but when this is supposed to have happened and how it's supposed to have started off his nervous problems I don't know. I think it's rubbish anyway.

guitougoal said...

gossips at Pseuds? Nooooo...we are just circulating rumors. I don't know much about cricket but I guess if you loose your wife you should be entitled to loose a game of cricket -

wisden greengrass said...

OK, Lord E, we're all agog - all 3 of us.
This site must not degenerate into a den of gossip and rumours!
Nothing will suffice other than a no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle one-on-one, Mouth and Chanelle, giving us the naked facts on whether or not Mrs. Ramps romps with Tresco - or was it Vaughan?
The complete score sheet, please!

Chanelle said...

Since most sportspeople seem to be like totally obsessive and just egos on legs really you'd think one of them in a woman's life would be enough:))

guitougoal said...

"ego on legs", there is go go on legs going on in India's cricket. I understand India is trying to bring cheerleaders with short shorts and go go boots to appeal to younger spectators, any chance to see mimi
on a side line running the show in the near future?

munni said...

I hadn't heard that, but they've already got zebra-striped midriff-baring cheerleaders in Indian football. They are called the zeebras.
(I found a picture, but blogger really doesn't want me to post the link).

Indian footy makes me sad.

mimi said...

Naked dollars, Alan "billionaire" Stanford. Twenty20 Who knows who cares?

Tweet it, digg it