Ramprakash would 'cherish' England call-up
Mark Ramprakash has yet to be contacted by Geoff Miller's selection panel, but said he would "cherish and savour" the opportunity to make a dramatic comeback for the Ashes decider at The Oval. A day after Miller told Cricinfo Ramprakash was firmly in the frame for the contentious No. 3 position after a seven-year absence from Test cricket, the Surrey batsman declared himself available for a call-up that would fall a fortnight shy of his 40th birthday.
"I just think that mentally, in terms of approaching a Test match, I'm probably in the best shape I've ever been," Ramprakash told the Surrey website. "I'd be thrilled like any player selected to play for England in what is now a fantastic occasion. It's been a fascinating series, and now at the Brit Oval it's going to be a showpiece occasion. That's why you play the game. For any player that is selected, it's the sort of occasion that they will savour and cherish for the rest of their careers.
"I suppose (the publicity) is all a result of what happened at Headingley and not only the defeat but the manner of defeat. Of course, as England supporters we're all disappointed with the fact that having a 1-0 lead we've let the Aussies back in. The speculation has probably been whipped up really through that performance. I'm no stranger to this situation. I've had it before when my name has been linked strongly with trips to Australia - in fact the last two trips to Australia - and also the last tour to Sri Lanka. I've always tried to let my performances do the talking and I believe that I've presented a very strong case for all those occasions and again this year. I'm happy within myself, I'm batting well and playing good cricket."
Ramprakash insists he is a far superior cricketer now to that which made a tentative Test debut against the West Indies in 1991 alongside the likes of Graham Gooch, Allan Lamb and Graeme Hick. The 39-year-old has scored 1,209 runs at 100.75 for Surrey in the Championship's second division this season, including scores of 80 and 130 not out in his most recent match against Derbyshire. He has averaged in excess of 90 over the last four first-class seasons, and has been a dominant force at his home ground, The Oval, which will host the Ashes decider from August 20.
"I've seen some comments and articles and I think I have to respond because people sometimes still talk like it's 1995," he said. "I had a very difficult start in Test cricket, there's no doubt about that. I've had two careers - 1991-1997 and from 1998-onwards, where I have performed a lot better. My last Test match was in 2002 at the age of 32 and I had a difficult tour of New Zealand along with several other batsmen on some juicy pitches. But over the last few years I've worked very hard at my game.
"I still enjoy playing with Surrey. I think as a player and a person you just keep evolving, improving and developing. I've completed the ECB level four coaching course, which is aimed at professional coaching and has benefited me tremendously - just knowing myself as a person and communicating with other players. I was involved for 14 weeks in a very highly pressurised reality TV show, which was something totally out of my bubble. That's a life experience. I think if you ask anyone if they had know ten years ago what they know now then they'd all say it would have helped them a great deal."
Alec Stewart, the former England captain and current Surrey consultant, insisted Ramprakash would be a stronger candidate for the England No. 3 position than incumbent Ravi Bopara and contenders Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, Rob Key and Marcus Trescothick.
"You have to move all sentiment to one side," Stewart said. "England's selectors I hope will pick the best side to regain to the Ashes. Forget anything about sentiment, forget anything about looking to the future, forget anything about consistency or continuity. Go and pick the best XI that gives England an opportunity to win the Ashes.
"Ramps is in my best XI. The last Test he played was seven years ago, and people are allowed to change and mature. We don't know what Jonathan Trott will do, we don't know what Robert Key will do. All I'm saying is that if we don't know about people, is it not better to pick the very, very best player that we're not sure about.
"He's a mature person. He's comfortable. Just look at his record: he averages 91 over the last four years. It's never been technical, he did struggle to cope with everything that was thrown at him, but he's seven years older and he knows what a great player he is. I have no doubt that if Ramprakash is picked, he will perform."
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Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo