12. August 2009 20:40
With England's coach Andy Flower less than enthusiastic about the performance of England's middle order at Headingley, it is clear that there will be a change in the batting for the Oval, possibly more than one. Bopara looks to be the first casualty, his run-scoring having followed a downward curve over the Ashes series from a low base. So who should bat at No 3? The selectors are likely to favour Jonathan Trott, having much faith in their pecking order system. Geoff Miller, said yesterday "Our policy is consistency and continuity. Jonathan was brought into the Headingley square because he merited it. If we bring somebody else in, then why did we pick Jonathan in the first place? It is just logical thinking". I beg to differ. Miller is saying that because the selectors made one bad decision, the dictates of logic require that they repeat it at the Oval. I can't answer his rhetorical question as to why they picked Trott for Headingley. His record of only 18 first class hundreds in 217 innings (one for every 12 trips to the middle) hardly does the talking for him. At least he is South African - they usually do well for us.
Look at Ramprakash's record by contrast: 108 hundreds in 698 innings (one in 6.46) and an average over a long career of 54.35. Let's put that in context; it's more than Lara, Compton and Greg Chappell and up there with Barry Richards and Sobers. Of course there is more to being a successful Test player than churning out hundreds against the counties - ask Graeme Hick. And Ramprakash has had more than his fair share of chances for England, 92 innings with only 2 hundreds and an average of 27. Frequently Ramprakash appeared nervous and restricted in his stroke play when playing for England as if overwhelmed by the responsibility and the burden of expectation. Why should he be given another chance as he approaches 40?
My main reason is a non-cricketing one. Although the first season of Ramprakash's recent Indian summer preceded his triumph on Strictly Come Dancing (he averaged over 100 in 2006) the manner in which he has followed up those twin successes has, if anything been even more remarkable, especially in an era when very few manage to play on prolifically into their late thirties. In the following seasons he has averaged 101, 62 (completing his hundredth hundred in the process) and 100.75 so far this season. Those who know him feel that his Strictly triumph has relaxed him as a person and as a batsman and given him greater confidence in his abilities. Geoff Boycott recently said that he couldn't imagine that any activity that he engaged in off the field could have helped his batting. GB always was a bit black and white; those of us who take a more nuanced view of life can well understand why inner fulfillment in another field involving testing challenges in front of an audience of millions could have provided Ramps with the mental strength to stamp his authority on bowling attacks up and down the country. Surely that is what we are looking for going into this decisive Test and not the knocking knees of a debutant.