Mark on top batsmen & mentality of champions
INTERVIEW/MARK R. RAMPRAKASH
London: Mark Ravin Ramprakash, whose ancestors are understood to have hailed from UP's Sultanpur, spoke to The Telegraph at Lord's on Friday afternoon.
Ramprakash (48), who has been England's batting coach from 2013, is on the highly exclusive list of 25 batsmen with 100 or more first-class hundreds.
Some achievement that.
Q Who would you pick as the top batsmen of the present times?
A In random order, I can think of four (Virat Kohli, Joe Root, Kane Williamson, Steve Smith).
• VIRAT KOHLI: Virat's an outstanding modern-day batsman. He's adapted to all conditions... Pace and short-pitched bowling in Australia, the swinging ball in England - we saw that at Edgbaston - and, of course, the slower wickets back home... You have to admire Virat, for not only is he a top-class Test batsman globally, he's tremendous in the ODIs - with a record which is so ridiculously good - and scores big in the IPL as well. There's an appetite for all formats, in other words... Virat's focused, has a strong mind and is obviously so committed... At Edgbaston, Virat changed his style a little and batted out of his crease, wanting to push the bowlers' length back. He kept his hands very straight and wanted to play late.
• JOE ROOT: Joe bats at No.3 now and is a very hard worker. Even at nets, he challenges himself. Because Joe's a top-order batsman, and has opened, he can cope with the ball which moves... Joe too has an appetite for runs and is willing to play the leading role for his team.
• KANE WILLIAMSON: Like Virat and Joe, Williamson features in the top-order. Again, like them, he is an orthodox right-hander and plays all formats. The best part of batsmen like Williamson is that they challenge themselves.
• STEVE SMITH: Unlike the first three, Smith is an unorthodox right-hander... He has scored runs in India (499 in four Tests in the last series), has a 215 at Lord's and, in the last Ashes, we just couldn't get him out - 687 runs over five Tests... Smith also has an appetite and is fond of occupying the crease. Some may not find him attractive to watch, but he makes it work.
[Smith is off international duty as Cricket Australia has banned him till March 2019.]
Q Something common to all four...
A All have the mentality of a champion. It's a mindset thing.
Q AB de Villiers retired from international cricket only recently. If he hadn't, where would you have placed him?
A Of course, with the four that I have talked about... AB has other interests and would take time off from the game... He loves other sport, loves music. I don't think there's anything wrong with having interests away from cricket... AB didn't have the tunnel vision of a Tiger Woods, for whom it has been golf and golf only in that pursuit of excellence.
Q Is there a particular style that you look for?
A We all like to see good players... As a coach, however, I look for the unorthodox type... Somebody like a Shivnarine Chanderpaul among batsmen and a bowler like Lasith Malinga.
Q The batsman you idolised?
A Sir Vivian Richards. It's an unusual coincidence that my first Test series for England was Sir Viv's last - in the summer of 1991. Desmond Haynes, my teammate at Middlesex, introduced us and meeting Sir Viv was a big moment for me... Besides Sir Viv, I'd been wowed by Tony Greig, who sadly is no more with us. Tony had a certain style, collars up and all, and that left a huge impression on me as a six-year old during the England vs West Indies series in the summer of 1976.
Q Final one... Has T20 been beneficial for batting or is the format producing batsmen who struggle with a capital S in challenging conditions?
A I can't say one way or the other, it's mixed... Look at what the T20 format has done for fielding and for power-hitting. However, I agree with Graham Gooch who, a few years ago, said that the craft and skill against pace, swing and the turning ball was becoming less important because of the predominance of white-ball cricket. Test cricket, for me and a lot of other people, remains the pinnacle.