Sometimes you get a long way down the track before you realise you’ve got it a bit wrong. And other times you know from the start that you’ve made a huge mistake. We’re very much in the latter camp when it comes to the title of this article. What started out as an attempt to avoid infringing on the BBC’s copyright has now become a millstone around our neck. And why is this? Because in Mark Ramprakash, we have the unlikeliest unlikely lad you could possibly imagine.
The first entry in the series, Ian Salisbury, was genuinely shit, fit only to provide the ammo for the Stand And Deliver round at the Titans Of Cricket show. Mark Ravin Ramprakash was far from shit, being a fantastically talented batsman that never even came close to fulfilling his potential at the top level.
Starting at the end, like a contemporary series of Doctor Who, is very telling. Once he was finally free from the pressure of having to occasionally play international cricket, Ramprakash’s county form was simply amazing. In every season from 2001 to 2010 he averaged over 50 with the bat. In 2006 and 2007 he averaged over 100, scoring more than 2,000 runs in both cases (and surpassing Denis Compton’s supposedly unbeatable figures from 1947 over the two years). He also managed a perfect score on the way to winning the final of Strictly Come Dancing.
And yet, in the full glare of the international arena, things were very different. He managed to play 52 Tests but made only two hundreds. An average of 27.32 says it all – a figure below the likes of Stuart Broad, Tim Ambrose and Nawab of Pataudi.
Ramprakash debuted for England alongside another supremely gifted but ultimately disappointing batsman (Graeme Hick) in the 1991 home series against the West Indies. Even twenty years on, this remains one of our favourite series, as perhaps the last great West Indian side went head to head with the likes of Derek Pringle and Steve Watkin. While the first game at Headingley is famous for Graeme Gooch’s amazing 154*, Ramprakash’s two scores of 27 proved extremely valuable in a low scoring encounter. However, they also set a trend of aesthetically pleasing innings that ended just as they got going.
Ramprakash didn’t make it past 29 in that series and didn’t reach 50 until his tenth test match, a dead rubber victory against Australia at The Oval in 1993. From there it was a familiar story for any number of England players in the 90’s – in and out of the side as results failed to improve. Ramprakash’s first hundred finally came in the West Indies, a mere seven years after his debut. His second came in 2001, again against Australia at The Oval. And yet it was followed by another run of mediocre scores before he was finally put out of his misery in 2002.
And yet the story didn’t quite end there. During the 2009 Ashes England found themselves in desperate need of a batsman for the decisive final Test at The Oval, due to an injury to Kevin Pietersen and Ravi Bopara’s complete lack of runs. Seasoned pundits called for Ramprakash and a final hurrah. The England selectors went for Jonathan Trott instead, and the rest is history.
It’s hard to reconcile Mark Ravin Ramprakash the nervous England batsman with Mark Ravin Ramprakash the suave, sophisticated destroyer of county attacks, winner of dancing competitions and favourite of housewives. Perhaps he was simply not built to play in a rubbish team, where the pressure was always on a middle order prone to collapsing like one of Mrs 51allout’s souffles. In the modern side, where he’d have been batting behind the likes of Trott and Cook, he’d have been coming in at 250/3 and smashing the likes of Steve Smith into the Swan River, under no pressure whatsoever.
Alas, we’ll never know. All that we’ll be left with are the memories of his truly great performances – the aforementioned Strictly Come Dancing victory and the time he succesfully completed all his challenges on Hider In The House. Unfortunately we couldn’t find a clip of the latter but here’s the next best thing: