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.