Ramps ready to return
Veteran batsman eager to play in showpiece Ashes Test
Last Updated: 12/08/09 5:49pm
Mark Ramprakash declared himself available and ready to step in for the deciding Ashes Test at the Oval next week, insisting that he is now a better player than the one that struggled at international level.
"But I still feel as though I've kept improving as a player so for me to be part of a fantastic occasion here is a great opportunity and you would really relish the challenge."
Mark Ramprakash Quotes of the week
Surrey batsman Ramprakash is one of the form men in the County Championship, and the 39-year-old is being strongly linked with a return to the England fold for the crucial final Ashes Test next week.
England's innings defeat at Headingley highlighted the lack of runs in the middle order, and Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell are in serious danger of being dropped - with Ramprakash a favourite to step in.
Although he has always had the ability, Ramprakash could not reproduce his county form for England, but seven years after his last Test the veteran insists he has improved and is now ready to take on the Aussies.
Ramprakash was keen to answer his critics who claim he does not have the temperament to play Test cricket, saying he is a far better player than he used to be.
"I've seen a few comments and one or two articles talking about that (Test temperament) and I think it's fair for me to respond in that I think it's a little bit out of date," Ramprakash told Sky Sports News.
"That viewpoint is almost like people still perceive me as though it's 1995, I think people are constantly improving, evolving and developing and I'm no different. If I had known ten years ago what I know now then I'd have been in a much better position to do whatever I wanted to do.
"I've done the level four coaching course which has been fantastic and I've learned a lot about myself, I've spent 14 weeks in a very high profile reality TV show bubble which was a great experience.
"As well as the cricket where I've come in every day with Surrey and looked to keep improving and learning so I've had that attitude and a lot has happened.
"I played my last Test at 32 on the New Zealand tour in 2002 and that was a difficult trip. I struggled a bit but a lot of players did, there were some juicy pitches out there.
"I think Nasser Hussain said it was a very close thing whether I was left out and they put a line through my name at that stage. But I still feel as though I've kept improving as a player so for me to be part of a fantastic occasion here is a great opportunity and you would really relish the challenge."
Ramprakash admitted that he has not been in contact with national selector Geoff Miller, although he did reiterate that he is available and would love to take part in the Ashes finale on his home ground.
"Yes I'm available, I think any cricketer would be. It's a wonderful showpiece occasion we've got on our hands," he added.
"For it all to come down to the Brit Oval now, I think any player would really accept that challenge and really cherish and savour being involved in such a match - it's something that you'd remember for the rest of your career."
For now, Ramprakash will not let all the speculation affect his performances, as he is well accustomed to being talked about in terms of England selection.
"Well there has been a lot of speculation which has sort of whipped up in the last week with the defeat at Headingley, not just the loss but the manner of the defeat, so there has been a lot of speculation.
"I suppose I'm not a stranger to that, probably the last two Ashes tours to Australia and the one to Sri Lanka my name was strongly linked with being included in the touring party.
"I've been there before, and I've always hoped that my performances on the field will do my talking."