Ramprakash has sympathy for Tendulkar
Former England international Mark Ramprakash empathises from personal experience with the retirement decision that is soon to face India’s great batsman Sachin Tendulkar.
Tendulkar is facing cries from some quarters to call it a day as his outstanding international career enters its twilight.
England have restricted the Little Master to scores of 13, eight and eight so far midway through a Test series which is level at 1-1 after the tourists’ victory in Mumbai.
At the age of 39, and with the third Test looming in Kolkata next week, Tendulkar’s future has become a hot topic in the sub-continent especially.
It is all the more so, perhaps, after Ricky Ponting - fellow record-breaking batsman and great contemporary of Tendulkar’s - announced on Thursday that the ongoing Perth Test against South Africa will be his last game for Australia.
Ramprakash, scorer of 114 first-class hundreds, never scaled the heights of Tendulkar and Ponting in international cricket that his imperious performances at county level suggested he should.
When he retired almost six months ago, then aged 42, it was clearly one of the toughest calls of his life after a 25-year professional career.
“When you have played the game with such dedication and professionalism as Sachin and Ricky Ponting - often they have put so much into the game - it can become difficult to realise ’I am not on it as I usually am’,” he said.
“It is almost as though they are on auto-pilot. They train, they work hard and play and don’t know any different.
“Going on my own experience, it can be difficult to realise you might be one per cent off it mentally or physically with training ... you’re not quite on it - because you still believe you can do it.”
Former Australia Test star Justin Langer, his fellow ex-Middlesex batsman, knew when the time was right.
“Justin said for him it was a relief to retire,” added Ramprakash. “He knew he was not enjoying it and therefore giving up was a relief. It is a very difficult period for players who have played at highest level to give up.
“(Former England captain Andrew) Strauss or other players might be comfortable with it and know what they are going to do and enjoy doing something else. For certain players, who are dedicated and played a long time, it can be difficult to know.”
Ramprakash is in India in his new role to help coach England’s aspirants in the Performance Programme.
It is a job he is relishing, and an environment he finds particularly impressive - and so different from the one in which he himself began his career.
“It would have been amazing to have what these kids have now,” he said.
“I look on with envy, I really do, because of the opportunities they have - the training methods to improve, the attention to detail both technically and mentally. It is wonderful. They can be the best they can be. It is chalk and cheese to my day.”
The attention paid both to fitness and personal development, as well as cricket skills, has struck Ramprakash especially.
“Back in my day, it was all about your cricket,” he said. “I came into the side at 17, young and raw. I was not self-aware about strengths and weaknesses.
“Now all the young boys have access to sports psychologists and player welfare. That helps them come to terms with challenges they face.”
Ramprakash is eager to learn too, in his new occupation.
“People expect me to be a technical coach, but it is not turning out that way,” he said. “I am a practical coach. I have seen so many different people bat in different ways and get runs. You have to understand there is no one formula.
“I feel I can help them with the ups and downs of the game mentally, and tactically as well. The ups and downs in my career should help me as a coach.
“I can identify with players perhaps sometimes trying too hard, feeling under pressure to make a mark or dealing with disappointment.”
Most notable of all, though, to Ramprakash is the contrast between the lifestyle off the pitch in his youth - for example, in Mike Gatting’s Middlesex team in the 1980s - and today’s methods.
“When I first started, recovery techniques were probably a curry and diet coke - or watch Gatt eat his curry and have a few pints,” he joked.