Mark Ramprakash September 28, 2006

From runs to Rumba

2278 runs at a Bradman-beating 103.54. It's more than enough to warrant an extended holiday, or at least the opportunity to put your feet up. Not for Mark Ramprakash though who next week appears on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing



Dancing, strictly for fun © BBC

2278 runs at a Bradmanesque 103.54. It's more than enough to warrant an extended holiday, or at least the opportunity to put your feet up. Not for Mark Ramprakash though who next Saturday appears on the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.

His remarkable season is best illustrated by comparisons; it is only the sixth instance of a batsman ending a season averaging more than 100 . It's been another summer of industrial run-scoring (he made 2258 runs for Middlesex eleven years ago, too). So why dancing, why television and most curiously of all, why now?

"Well, it wasn't that I was even thinking of doing it," he revealed. "I had a call from an agent asking if I'd fancy doing it and my immediate reaction was 'no'. But I had a think about it, went home - my wife was really supportive. It suddenly dawned on me that I've been immersed in cricket for, what, twenty years? I haven't done a lot else. So, you know, in a moment of weakness I said yes."

Eyebrows will be raised - hopefully not in sympathy - but cricketers are in vogue these days, in this era of celebrity foolhardiness. Ramprakash, who turned 37 earlier this month is no longer the international he should have been - but nor was Darren Gough 12 months ago when he had his moment of weakness, replacing bowling boots with salsa shoes. The reaction then was "Goughie, what are you doing?" albeit tinged with endearment; it was expected of Gough - the one England player Australia would've picked in the 1990s, just for his unfailing optimism.

Ramprakash is no Dazzler - far from it. And he's certainly not Phil Tufnell either, whose carefully chosen appearances on TV, not to mention the "'appy days" catchphrase, have unwittingly created a parody of himself. Synonymous with English cricket for the best part of 20 years, Ramprakash is nevertheless a retiring character, isn't he? "Spot on, yes. I don't really enjoy the public spotlight." So why choose to potentially humiliate himself on national television? "It was more the fact that it would be a fun thing to do - something completely different and, you know, I'm coming towards the end of my cricket career. Maybe it's time to look at different things. I've taken up golf and really got into that."



2278 runs at a Bradmanesque 103.54 © Getty Images

There is no obvious progression from batting to ballrooms - although Gough disproved this by winning the show last year - but Ramprakash firmly stated his amateur status. "I've had no formal training whatsoever...just the normal amount of dancing [in clubs] most blokes have done. But my wife was really supportive - more so than surprised. It's a major show which she and my daughter watched last year - I didn't, myself - and they both followed Darren closely. My daughter loves dancing and they thought it would be a fun thing to do." So his nine-year-old daughter just wants Dad to take her arm on the dance floor then? "Well, perhaps, but I think in her eyes Darren is still number one and she just laughs her head off whenever she sees me dancing."

Arguably it would be the perfect send-off opportunity: a rich summer of runs, and a chance to make a name for himself on TV. But he was insistent that cricket remains his first love, and hopes it will last at least another three seasons with Surrey, with whom he has spoken informally about an extension to his contract. Such has his dominance been in cricket this summer that he could afford a degree of cockiness about securing a fresh contract with Surrey, not to mention his dancing chances.

"It all depends - the competition is very hot this year in the series. There are a lot of good dancers and I could easily get knocked out on the opening night. Who knows? I must confess, however, I didn't realise quite how much of a commitment it was. 12-15 hours of training each week; travelling into the studios into London..it's pretty tiring. Although having said that, this is so different. Mentally it's completely different." 15 hours of training doesn't sound an awful lot compared to the county treadmill, however.

There's no question then that the Rumba will replace the run-scoring for him just yet. And though his name was mentioned among commentators for a possible Ashes spot this winter, even he concedes his England opportunities are long gone. Gough will be glued to the screen and so will we - albeit tinged with schadenfreude.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo

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