County news April 25, 2012

Ramprakash cracks under strain

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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

  • Meety 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.

  • glance_to_leg 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.

  • CricketingStargazer 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.

  • AdrianVanDenStael 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).

  • WilliamFranklin 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.

  • anuradha_d 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?

    WHY?

  • maddy20 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.

  • Munkeymomo on April 26, 2012, 7:51 GMT

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • Meety 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.

  • glance_to_leg 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.

  • CricketingStargazer 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.

  • AdrianVanDenStael 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).

  • WilliamFranklin 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.

  • anuradha_d 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?

    WHY?

  • maddy20 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.

  • Munkeymomo on April 26, 2012, 7:51 GMT

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

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

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

  • 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.

  • CricketingStargazer on April 26, 2012, 6:59 GMT

    @jontycodes, quite agree. People have just not bothered to notice and ask why. Nick Compton, Ravi Bopara, Arun Suppiah, James Hildreth, Phil Jacques, Rikki Clarke, Chris Read, Darren Maddy, Ben Wright, Ramesh Srwan & Joshua Cobb all made centuries in the last round. Some players are thriving when others are moaning. What's the common factor? Actually it is not true that totals of 500+ have been posted: 403ao by Notts and 445-2d by Somerset are the best but, for example, Somerset have posted 350, 354 and 445-2 in their 3 matches so far and there have been 7 team totals of 300+ in CC1, so batting is not quite as impossible as people have made out, at least if you are determined.

  • johntycodes on April 26, 2012, 6:34 GMT

    Couldn't dissagree more with rampracash. If teams are getting bowled out for under 200 and results are happening that is better than the usual counties making scores of over 500 regularly. It also gives the batters an oportunity to be labelled as very good batsmen if they are one of very few in the match that can overcome the pitch and make runs.

  • jmcilhinney on April 26, 2012, 4:48 GMT

    @Meety, is that really a fair comment? If people talk about the standard of a FC comp they are talking about the standard of the players. If things are especially difficult in the CC at the moment due to an extremely early start and bad weather then that doesn't really reflect on the standard of the comp. Australia had a tough time in Hobart against NZ and I reckon these pitches have far more life than that. I reckon that the scheduling needs some looking at but MR is most likely overreacting here due to frustration over his own extended poor form. Perhaps he should have brought it up with the players association and they could have approached the ECB properly instead of his abusing umpires who have no control over scheduling or pitch preparation. As said, maybe tougher pitches in FC cricket could lead to better batsmen overall in the end.

  • ddyte on April 26, 2012, 3:23 GMT

    It may well be to early to start the season, but when the wickets are hard and dry you don't hear the bowlers sulking.

  • on April 26, 2012, 1:03 GMT

    Quite right Tigg. Ramps has a point, but it does not justify abuse towards the umpires.

  • Patchmaster on April 26, 2012, 1:02 GMT

    all because they want to shoe horn in the 20/20 schedule - the ECB only has themselves to blame. But lets face it, Nick Compton ain't having much trouble at the wicket !

  • on April 26, 2012, 0:25 GMT

    @tigg - very well said, couldn't agree more. The game has been the batmans (arguably) for the past 10 year plus, its about time the bowlers had a little something, THEN we can see who is good enough to knock 100 first class centuries

  • Meety on April 25, 2012, 23:23 GMT

    @nzcricket174 - well said!

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 25, 2012, 22:43 GMT

    i think Ramps is precisely the sort of person who should be making waves over stupid policies. Somebody has to and the old pro is the best place to start as he is uniquely qualified to say it how it is, just like Mick Hunt last week. A few more long service pros speak up, please!! ncurd- there are always exceptions and who would care if such a name its way to the top level if he made the grade.

  • on April 25, 2012, 22:10 GMT

    Almost a quarter of the Championship season has been wasted by this madness, just so the decks can be cleared for 20/20 during June and early July and to get the season finished in early September, when no doubt there will be glorious sunshine until well into October.

  • on April 25, 2012, 21:28 GMT

    Wow! Some would love that in India!!!!

  • nzcricket174 on April 25, 2012, 21:25 GMT

    Now they will learn how good the players on uncovered pitches were.

  • on April 25, 2012, 21:01 GMT

    All teams are under the same pressure - batsmen and bowlers will develop under these conditions. No need to worry, enjoy!

  • jkhamar on April 25, 2012, 20:26 GMT

    not so long ago on itv4 he was one who was critical of Harbhjan and munaf for arguing with umpires. what a hypocrite !

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 25, 2012, 20:22 GMT

    I do find certain modern 'records' a bit hard to believe. If this is the wettest April on record then I am a Portuguese citizen. Aprils come in different shapes and meteorological types but this the wettest on record?? Since when? Please would writers stop hyperbolising and sensationalising. it is unnecessary and boring. Slightly more rigour in research might be in order. I cannot believe also that Ramps is really cracking any more than I believed Strauss was close to tears the other day except metaphorically. Disappointed -yes. Crying-no. Big boys don't, do they? Both will be back and heaven help the bowlers.

  • Tigg on April 25, 2012, 19:15 GMT

    Aww, poor Ramps is unable to be a flat track divsion 2 attack bully and he's sulking.

    While the start is too early, and the insistence that T20 be crammed into a short window is daft, the pitches will flatten out in time.

  • ncurd on April 25, 2012, 18:21 GMT

    @ Mike Jones, what about Nick Compton? He's making this April look rather easy....at Trent Bridge and Edgbaston!

  • Herbet on April 25, 2012, 17:47 GMT

    Starting the cricket season on April 5th is total and utter madness. Cricket is a summer sport and early April isn't, never has been, and never will be summer. It is effectively winter. Its more likely to be cold, frosty and just generally wintery in early April than it is in October or even early November, and nobody would play then. The ski centres in Scotland are still turning over a decent trade, the hills of northern England are still getting snow and birks are trying to play cricket in places like Durham and Leeds!

  • SDHM on April 25, 2012, 17:42 GMT

    It might just work Green and Gold - as soon as most of the country was declared to be in drought, down came the rain! To be honest, Ramprakash would do well to just button it and concentrate on his batting; the weather's not meant to get any better for the next round of fixtures. They're already saying down here in Somerset that we'll be lucky to get half a game in this week (against a Lancashire side ripe for the taking - our famous luck kicking in again) and I don't think the picture's meant to be better elsewhere.

  • Nadeem1976 on April 25, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    I know how hard it is to play in 7 degree temperature. If pitch is green then there is no chance for batsman at all. great Reflexes are required to bat on those pitches.

  • Green_and_Gold on April 25, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    Maybe if we drop the hosepipe ban and bring in a sunscreen ban the irony will bring in some good weather?

  • on April 25, 2012, 14:44 GMT

    There is part of me that agrees but the game has been skewed towards batsmen for a long time, good technique has proved effective this year, just look at Chris Read and Ravi Bopara in the last round of matches. Bowlers deserve a fair crack and having flat pitches does not encourage new swing bowlers.

  • Harvey on April 25, 2012, 13:10 GMT

    I'm surprised that "a shooter" could happen at The Oval of all places. Only a few days ago (according to the Surrey camp) there was "no excuse" for the state of the Lord's pitch on which they lost to Division 2 champions, Middlesex. Now we have yet another Surrey player carping on about early season pitches. Everyone else seems to be gritting their teeth and getting on with it, so why can't they? I'm told the pitch looked perfectly alright in Worcestershire's 2nd innings, when only rain denied the latter victory.

  • CricketingStargazer on April 25, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    I can't help thinking that battling through in difficult conditions is an important skill and one that the England batsmen showed that they had not mastered in the UAE. It may not be as spectacular as a T20 slog, but it is a fundamental part of the game. A successful side has to learn to dig its way out of a hole and a batsman who wants to be successful at the top level has to be able to graft for runs when things are not in his favour. A thing that is not commented here, but which is important. is that Mark Ranprakash's slump dates back to last summer. Since the end of July 2011 he has just 209 runs and averages 13, so it is not just April pitches at fault and his average this season, so far, is very little down on his average from last August and September.

  • Hammond7249 on April 25, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Wettest on record? I doubt it! Compared to last two years April has been wetter but still has been pretty decent weather wise, at least here in the north west. And enough about weather forecasting-when do they ever get it right?

  • Narkovian on April 25, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    Never mind ECB. Its only 4 day Championship. We play cricket that really matters ( T20 !!!) when the weather is good, in June/July. Oh yes.. then maybe a bit more of the irrelevent stuff at the end of the season. Probably be having Test matches in early April soon so they don't interfere with the hit and giggle stuff in the summer. Am I being cynical ? probably.

  • Meety on April 25, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Yet so many English fans still say it is the best FC comp in the world? Don't get me wrong - it is easily the most professional, but a lottery? What sort FC comp is that? They should play the T20s now (as an appetiser), it's a bit of a lottery & could suit!!

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 25, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Some good may actually come of all this. If enough of the people who count, namely players, groundsmen, fans kick up a stink about this fixturing maybe in the end the people who think this is a good idea may change the scheduling. Of course scheduling so many 4 day games in April is lunatic, but the case for it has been helped by a succession of anomalously good Aprils. This year it has been bad weather-execrable really, and this is really how April should be. Now the crops will have had a good soaking etc and life can be a bit more normal. And the chances of this being a decent summer are increased enormously- good Aprils seem to herald appalling summers, eg the last five, and vice versa. So while it is bad for cricketers and sun worshippers now, delayed gratification may bring its rewards. Let us hope so. And let us pray that the admin people rethink scheduling for the future and give 4 day cricket its rightful place back.

  • No featured comments at the moment.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 25, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Some good may actually come of all this. If enough of the people who count, namely players, groundsmen, fans kick up a stink about this fixturing maybe in the end the people who think this is a good idea may change the scheduling. Of course scheduling so many 4 day games in April is lunatic, but the case for it has been helped by a succession of anomalously good Aprils. This year it has been bad weather-execrable really, and this is really how April should be. Now the crops will have had a good soaking etc and life can be a bit more normal. And the chances of this being a decent summer are increased enormously- good Aprils seem to herald appalling summers, eg the last five, and vice versa. So while it is bad for cricketers and sun worshippers now, delayed gratification may bring its rewards. Let us hope so. And let us pray that the admin people rethink scheduling for the future and give 4 day cricket its rightful place back.

  • Meety on April 25, 2012, 12:45 GMT

    Yet so many English fans still say it is the best FC comp in the world? Don't get me wrong - it is easily the most professional, but a lottery? What sort FC comp is that? They should play the T20s now (as an appetiser), it's a bit of a lottery & could suit!!

  • Narkovian on April 25, 2012, 13:01 GMT

    Never mind ECB. Its only 4 day Championship. We play cricket that really matters ( T20 !!!) when the weather is good, in June/July. Oh yes.. then maybe a bit more of the irrelevent stuff at the end of the season. Probably be having Test matches in early April soon so they don't interfere with the hit and giggle stuff in the summer. Am I being cynical ? probably.

  • Hammond7249 on April 25, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Wettest on record? I doubt it! Compared to last two years April has been wetter but still has been pretty decent weather wise, at least here in the north west. And enough about weather forecasting-when do they ever get it right?

  • CricketingStargazer on April 25, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    I can't help thinking that battling through in difficult conditions is an important skill and one that the England batsmen showed that they had not mastered in the UAE. It may not be as spectacular as a T20 slog, but it is a fundamental part of the game. A successful side has to learn to dig its way out of a hole and a batsman who wants to be successful at the top level has to be able to graft for runs when things are not in his favour. A thing that is not commented here, but which is important. is that Mark Ranprakash's slump dates back to last summer. Since the end of July 2011 he has just 209 runs and averages 13, so it is not just April pitches at fault and his average this season, so far, is very little down on his average from last August and September.

  • Harvey on April 25, 2012, 13:10 GMT

    I'm surprised that "a shooter" could happen at The Oval of all places. Only a few days ago (according to the Surrey camp) there was "no excuse" for the state of the Lord's pitch on which they lost to Division 2 champions, Middlesex. Now we have yet another Surrey player carping on about early season pitches. Everyone else seems to be gritting their teeth and getting on with it, so why can't they? I'm told the pitch looked perfectly alright in Worcestershire's 2nd innings, when only rain denied the latter victory.

  • on April 25, 2012, 14:44 GMT

    There is part of me that agrees but the game has been skewed towards batsmen for a long time, good technique has proved effective this year, just look at Chris Read and Ravi Bopara in the last round of matches. Bowlers deserve a fair crack and having flat pitches does not encourage new swing bowlers.

  • Green_and_Gold on April 25, 2012, 16:33 GMT

    Maybe if we drop the hosepipe ban and bring in a sunscreen ban the irony will bring in some good weather?

  • Nadeem1976 on April 25, 2012, 17:22 GMT

    I know how hard it is to play in 7 degree temperature. If pitch is green then there is no chance for batsman at all. great Reflexes are required to bat on those pitches.

  • SDHM on April 25, 2012, 17:42 GMT

    It might just work Green and Gold - as soon as most of the country was declared to be in drought, down came the rain! To be honest, Ramprakash would do well to just button it and concentrate on his batting; the weather's not meant to get any better for the next round of fixtures. They're already saying down here in Somerset that we'll be lucky to get half a game in this week (against a Lancashire side ripe for the taking - our famous luck kicking in again) and I don't think the picture's meant to be better elsewhere.