County news April 25, 2012

Ramprakash cracks under strain


Mark Ramprakash, the most prolific batsman in English first-class cricket, has become the first player to crack under the pressure of playing on county pitches that are more treacherous than they have been for 25 years.

With April looking bound to become the wettest on record, and flood alerts anticipated in many regions over the next four days, the ECB's gamble on the earliest start to the Championship season has already turned sour.

Ramprakash, who at 42 is England's most experienced current player, has been penalised under the ECB disciplinary code for abusive language to the umpires Nigel Llong and Jeff Evans during Surrey's Championship match against Worcestershire at The Oval last week.

All 22 players batted on the third day, with Ramprakash getting one of the unkindest deliveries of all - a shooter from Alan Richardson which extended one of his most unsuccessful sequences in a record-breaking career. Surrey's first-innings total of 140 was their lowest at The Oval since 1999.

Ramprakash, who is now only one transgression away from an automatic suspension, has condemned the start to the Championship season as "a lottery" and described batting conditions as the most difficult since his career began in 1987 - a debut that coincided with English cricket's final move to an era of covered pitches.

"There has been extravagant movement and it has made batting at times a lottery," Ramprakash told The Daily Telegraph. "In our dressing room we are saying that conventional play is not effective and you feel like you need to chance your arm because the bowlers are so much in the ascendancy.

"It is the hardest I have found it since 1987 when I started. I think it is really tough, especially for the younger players who have worked hard all winter. It is hard and the guys don't know whether to stick or twist at the moment. You try to 'guts it out' but then you feel it is not getting any easier and you never really get in.

"The pitches are doing plenty throughout the game. It has been very difficult and it is more about trying to bat in a very aggressive way whenever possible. I don't feel that is proper batting. I feel proper batting is treating the ball on its merits."

Groundsmen, who have been allowed minimal square preparation time in a season that began on April 5, the earliest Championship start date ever, have pronounced it virtually impossible to produce good batting pitches in cold, wet weather that makes it difficult to remove enough moisture from the pitches.

Players brought up on dry four-day pitches, and influenced by the more aggressive nature of the one-day game, have shown little appetite for the sort of dutiful, defensive innings that were a regular feature of the game in the era of uncovered pitches. England's professional game switched to covered pitches in 1980; a further experiment in 1987, Ramprakash's debut season, in which pitches were left uncovered during the hours of play, was abandoned after only one year.

Ramprakash was reported by the umpires for a level one breach of the code: using language that is obscene, offensive or insulting and/or making an obscene gesture. An ECB statement said: "As this incident follows a previous breach of the fixed penalty system within the last two years, Ramprakash has received three penalty points. This penalty will remain on his record for a period of two years and he now holds six penalty points. The accumulation of nine or more penalty points in any two-year period will result in an automatic suspension."

April is expected to be the wettest on record with some areas forecast to be hit by a month's rain over a few days as the drought that has afflicted many parts of the country breaks in spectacular fashion. The Met Office has issued several severe weather alerts, with southern England and eastern Scotland likely to be worst affected. "Strong and gusty winds and significant and heavy falls of snow on higher ground" are also predicted over the coming days.

Ramprakash, who has 114 first-class centuries, the most made by any current player, has managed only 62 runs in six innings at an average of 10.33 so far this season. He will attempt to put that right, weather permitting, against Durham at The Oval tomorrow, one of eight Championship matches scheduled. Rain is forecast in all of them with temperatures forecast to be as low as 7C.

Edited by Alan Gardner

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on April 27, 2012, 0:44 GMT

    @jmcilhinney - mate, my comment whilst part stir was partly on the money! I was mainly referring to the weather & lack of preparation the Groundsmen have been able to perform as it is a very early start. I actually was not making any comment on Ramprakash - which I think your reasons are likely to be spot on about.

  • David on April 26, 2012, 12:34 GMT

    Some batsmen have managed to play well in very difficult circumstances; some of these have also had some good luck - Hildreth, for example, was horribly dropped by Franks in the recent Somerset/Nottinghamshire game. Many of the sides posting bigger scores have also been experiencing the better conditions. But, in general, while the likes of Read and Compton have shown how to play, I think Ramprakash's points are quite reasonable. That said, I find it makes for rather exciting cricket, but I am not sure it is a good way of developing young cricketers' skills, and it has clearly annoyed some older ones.

  • Mark on April 26, 2012, 11:57 GMT

    @WilliamFranklin, there is no greater frustration than to know that you have tried to continue for a season too many and not be able to get it back. When a player who would normally be retired has a great season and then says "one more", he's taking a risk. When he then says "last season didn't go so well, but I can get it back", he is probably just wishing that he had got out when still at the top of his game. This isn't a matter of one shooter or a rough decision, it is a matter of just over 200 runs in 3 months of cricket in a side that was winning 70% of its games.

  • Michael on April 26, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Poor old Ramps. That "Bloodaxe" tag (given him, as I understand it by Angus Fraser), seems to follow him around. His autobiography, "Simply Mark", exudes the sense that Ramps' reputation for having a temper is such a source of frustration to him that it leads him to get wound up and involved in still further incidents. Yes I am sure he gets bad decisions and plays on some bad pitches, but taking out his frustrations on the umpires hints at deeper problems. Ramps really doesn't need to bother playing county cricket at his age with about as many first-class runs and centuries as Don Bradman under his belt already. It must be frustrating for him that over the last couple of years he's been unable to maintain his stellar form of c.2003-2012. As for the early start to the season being allegedly to blame, well the only way the early start has affected some batsmen (e.g., Compton, Hildreth, Maddy, Clarke) is to enable them to come close to breaking batting records (like Ramps used to).

  • Adam on April 26, 2012, 9:43 GMT

    I'm guessing not many people posting comments on here were actually at the match when the incident happened. I was.

    He got an awful ball that barely bounced, however it looked to be moving past leg so could easily have been given not out. He was certainly angry as he was walking off but we got the impression it was more to do with general frustration than to the umpires specifically.

    He's had two very tight lbws and a debatable 'catch' against Middlesex this season. These things happen when you need runs.

  • anu on April 26, 2012, 9:24 GMT

    When Graeme Swann abused an upmire and a Lankan player in a first class game, CI did not report it at all.

    No Ramps does it in a First class game and not only does CI report it but makes it BIG and BOLD cover page news?


  • V.L on April 26, 2012, 8:51 GMT

    @jmcilhinney It is one thing to bat on pitches that swing and seam and completely another to bat on pitches where the bounce is consistently unpredictable and dangerous to the batsmen. I do think ECB should look into some of Ramprakash's valid points.

  • Mark on April 26, 2012, 7:51 GMT

    Nick Compton and James Hildreth don't seem to think it is that bad...

  • Matt on April 26, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    My grandmother could have batted on this pitch. Quit moaning Mark!

  • Dummy4 on April 26, 2012, 7:48 GMT

    Been a batsman's game for too long, bring on the green tops! I like Ramps and i'm a Surrey supporter, but seriously, get over it! What a nice dilemma to have, to play the game we love, day in day out, sponsored this, sponsored that, i'll go back to my drab 9-5.............and wait for wjhen saturday comes.

  • No featured comments at the moment.