10 August 2009

Creased up



"Please let us have another go!" pleaded Mark Ramprakash when he and Karen Hardy had to stop dancing due to a wiring malfunction on Strictly Come Dancing. He got his wish, and eventually won the whole event. Now maybe he is issuing the same plea to the England selectors as a batting crisis hits the side with one crucial Test remaining.

I'm interested in cricket but certainly no expert. However, even I can see that recalling Ramprakash for the win-or-bust fifth Test against the Australians would be simply insane.

Those arguing in his favour point to his form, his averages and the fact that the England middle order is currently in disarray, with Pietersen and Flintoff out injured and the likes of Bopara and Bell well short of anything convincing.

Ramprakash has been tipped for a call-up because it's a one-off, winner-takes-all Test. A draw will be no good as the holders of the Ashes automatically retain them by default, and Australia are the holders.

But he is 39 years old. He may not be able to stand a five day match involving possibly long slogs interspersed with lots of dawdling in the field. And if the slogs aren't long, then it means he has failed. You can't call up anyone, even someone of his experience, as a publicly-labelled "saviour" of the England team, because if he then fails to score runs he will be pilloried, in that charmingly unbalanced British way, as forever a failure.

He hasn't played Test cricket for seven years and he wasn't anything more than underwhelming during his Test career anyway. He has a good history, it appears, when it comes to bashing the Aussies round the field in the last Test of an Ashes series, but given that we didn't win a single one of those series' during his Test career, it's clear he was doing so with the pressure off as he was playing dead rubber cricket.

And with his exceptional but easily misunderstood dip in the waters of competitive dancing of late, the sledging possibilities for Aussie fielders - yes, they may have decided to stop it, but no uncultured Aussie worth his salt could resist a dig at Ramprakash's parquet-based escapades - are endless.

However, if he brings Karen along as the person who brings the drinks out every other hour, I'll have a rethink. Especially if she wears full cricket kit...

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