England in Sri Lanka 2007-08 October 11, 2007

Ramprakash tipped for Test recall?

Cricinfo staff



Mark Ramprakash: a colossus at county level, and ripe for a recall? © Getty Images
On Wednesday, England's cricketers wrapped up their first-ever one-day series win in Sri Lanka, but this week the selectors' thoughts return to the five-day game, as they meet to discuss the Test squad for the return visit to Sri Lanka in November and December. And according to Mike Selvey in The Guardian, there could be one very prominent inclusion in the tour party.

Mark Ramprakash played the last of his 52 Tests as long ago as April 2002, and at the age of 38, he is hardly representative of England's brave new world under Peter Moores. But his statistics at county level are irresistible - 2000 runs in his last two seasons for Surrey, both acquired at averages in excess of 100. He has amassed 46 centuries in the seven years since he moved from Middlesex to Surrey, and is now just three centuries shy of 100 in first-class cricket.

Admittedly, Ramprakash never managed as many as three centuries at Test level. His two hundreds at Barbados in 1997-98 and The Oval in 2001 were as good as it got in 52 infuriatingly underwhelming Tests. When he was finally jettisoned with a modest average of 27.32, few could complain he had not been given a fair chance to establish himself.

"The situation is very simple," Ramprakash told Surrey's website. "I have not retired from international cricket because I have not felt the need to. I am very happy with the way I have been playing and I have really enjoyed the cricket I have played over the last few years."

"It would be great to be selected for the Test team and to put the England shirt on again but at the same time, if it does not happen then that will be fine too. I have quite a lot I want to concentrate on this winter before building up for the start of next season with Surrey."

But the reasons for a recall are more compelling than mere sentiment. Under Moores, England have made noticeable attempts to bridge the divide between county and international cricket that sprung up during the reign of Duncan Fletcher. Men such as Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann and Owais Shah have been brought in from the cold on the strength of their consistency at domestic level, and it would be in keeping with England's policy to extend a hand to the most consistent county performer of all. His age is a factor, but it shouldn't be forgotten that Graham Gooch was pushing 40 when he finally reached international fulfillment at the start of the 1990s.

The man to miss out, if Ramprakash were to be recalled, would surely be Andrew Strauss, whose stock has plummeted in a grim 12 months in which he went from being England's captain-in-waiting to a virtual stranger in his own dressing-room. He was axed from both forms of limited-overs cricket with scarcely a shrug of complaint in either the media or from the man himself, while his Test average in the last 12 months (in which time he has failed to add to his 10 centuries) is a distinctly Ramprakashesque 27.21.

Strauss was nevertheless handed a central contract when the new list was announced in September, and the desire among the movers and shakers at the ECB may yet be to get value for money; especially seeing as three of their names for 2006-07 - Marcus Trescothick, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones - played next to no cricket all year long.

Ramprakash retains a hunger to compete at the highest level - he was approached by England's selectors at the beginning of the season to check his availability - but in recent years he has mellowed as a player and learned to enjoy his cricket more than ever before. If Ramprakash did turn out in England colours at Kandy in December, it would be a very different character to the one that left the field unfulfilled at Auckland in 2002.

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