Middlesex batting coach Mark Ramprakash discusses his methods, inspirations and training style
13:07 22 July 2013
Middlesex batting coach Mark Ramprakash has found a new lease of life on the other side of the cricket fence during his first year as a coach.
The 43-year-old called time on a playing career that spanned from 1987 to 2012 and included 114 first-class centuries, with two coming in Test cricket.
He spent the first half of his career with Middlesex before moving south of the river to Surrey.
Following his retirement, he returned to his first county as a part-time batting coach and has settled into the role extremely well.
“I’m enjoying coaching,” he told London24. “My role with Middlesex is part-time. I do about 100-110 days between January and September so I dip in and out as and when Richard Scott wants me.
“I float between first and second team as and when the head coach says. I’m enjoying it.
“There’s a good group of players here. They work pretty hard and I can see a lot of potential in the group. I’m learning a lot on the job.
“I do a little bit of media work here and there as and when the opportunity arises and I do a few PCA [Professional Cricketers Association] appearances which involve going to the Test match, interact with sponsors, the odd T20 match so those are the PCA appearances.
“I worked with the England Lions last winter which I really enjoyed. I’m not sure of my winter plans this year.
“If asked I’d be happy to help but I’m not sure if that decision has been made yet.”
Throughout his 25-year career, Ramprakash had several coaches and he revealed those that inspired him throughout his time as a player.
“I suppose you could say that my dad was a coach/mentor,” he explained.
“Jack Roberston at the age of 11 was an influential person. He was an ex-Middlesex player.
“Don Bennett was my first Middlesex coach at professional level. I learnt a lot from Keith Medlycott.
“All the coaches had their own way of operating and they have their own strengths and weaknesses and you pick up those things from different individuals.
“I think, as a coach, it’s important to be supportive to players and straight with them.
“You need good communication. Don’t use 1,000 words when 10 will do.
“If you operate in that manner then things are kept pretty straightforward. I can think of one or two who enjoyed chatting but I can think of a few who didn’t communicate enough and didn’t touch base with the players enough.
“There’s that balance. You don’t want a coach talking too much but if they’re too quiet players don’t know where they stand.”
Several cricket coaches is the modern game have taken to using Moneyball, that uses player statistics to prove the value of them.
And Ramprakash is open-minded to this method of coaching.
“I think how you view players is very interesting,” he said. “With cricket, you look at the end product – what’s in the box.
“If you take an opening batsman and they bat 15-20 overs and they might be averaging 30, are they doing a good job for the team in four day cricket?
“If they’re batting a long time and seeing off the shine and occupying the crease you can argue that they’re doing a valuable job for the team.
“How you view players in the Moneyball way, I’m open-minded to that.”
Cricket has evolved over the years and the sport is taking ideas from a variety of other sports, including football, baseball and athletics.
And the Middlesex man revealed the specialist training they can now receive.
“I remember Middlesex had a sprinting guy come in and talk about being more efficient in the way we run so we’re running with better technique,” Ramprakash explained.
“I think cricket has got more specific with their training techniques so Twenty20 is about power and the exercises the players are doing in the winter is to make them more powerful athletes so that makes total sense. Athletics is something to work with.”
Ramprakash is a big Arsenal fan and has briefly had conversations with manager Arsene Wenger, although not about coaching but is open to using football’s strength and conditioning techniques.
“I’ve never spoken to him about coaching,” he explained.
“I’ve met him a couple of times briefly. You’ve got to be open to new ideas and taking ideas from different sports.
“Football is one you look at. Strength and conditioning, fitness, speed. We’re borrowing techniques from baseball – throwing, hitting.
“I like the way the club is run. I’m a big fan of Arsene Wenger and what he has achieved.
“We all have our own opinions about what we would do and what the team needs. To think that someone knows better than Arsene Wenger is ridiculous.”
Cricket as a game has changed over the course of Ramprakash’s career with the advent of Twenty20 and players inventing new shots each year.
But the 43-year-old is keen on helping players get the basics right and working on shot selection.
“As a coach, you draw on your experiences,” he said. “I’ve been lucky that I made my first-class debut in 1987.
“There’s a lot that’s changed and evolved. As a coach I’ve got to keep evolving. You draw on your own experiences but at the same time you’re learning on the job all the time as well.
“There are definitely a lot of young players that gravitate towards the excitement of one-day cricket.
“A lot of them are reverse sweeping before they can play the on drive. It’s not that you want to stop them playing shots but you want to get them to play the right shot at the right time.
“You’ve got players geared towards one-day cricket and other geared to four-day cricket.
“Most top players can play all formats. The England Test team is similar to the 50-over team.
“I think we have an environment where all types of players can be given the chance to flourish.”
Mental strength is something a batsman needs if they are to survive at any level of the game and Ramprakash looks to help develop with the players.
“I think it’s trying to understand the pressures the players are under and empathise with them really but at the same time give them clarity,” he explained.
“When players are struggling mentally it’s because there’s so much going on in their mind.
“It’s important to be a sounding board for that player. Some talk a lot and you’re a sounding board and they’ll come out with the answer themselves. Other players don’t talk that much and you need to be proactive in asking them questions in trying to get it out of them. You’re hoping that they’ll talk and come up with the answers themselves.
On the Middlesex front, Ramprakash is excited by the potential Adam Rossington has shown, especially in the shorter forms of the game.
The wicketkeeper stepped in for John Simpson, who was rested, and his performances have meant that the four-day stumper has not been able to force his way back into the side.
“I think right now Adam Rossington has clearly shown some exciting shot-making ability in limited overs cricket in both Twenty20 and 40 overs,” Ramprakash explained.
“He played an exceptional innings against Yorkshire and I think in time I’d back him to get the opportunity in four day cricket as well and play in all formats.
“In terms of the other players I think there’s plenty of potential. We’re waiting to see who comes out of the pack.
“I’m trying to introduce some different practice methods and challenge the players to improve themselves and learn from their mistakes and see who can work hard, adapt and learn quickly.
He added: “If you look at both players, Simpson and Rossington, they have a lot of ability just with the bat.
“I think Simpson has played very well in the first innings against Warwickshire at Uxbridge, scoring 60-odd against a good attack in a tough situation.
“That’s really encouraging. It’s the same with Rossington. He’s perhaps geared more to one-day cricket.
“I’d back him to make that transition over time. Both players are pushing hard to be considered as batsmen.”
Simpson’s early 97 this season was one of Ramprakash’s successes and he admitted that it felt as good as if he had scored the runs himself.
“It’s very rewarding if you can be there for a player, talk to him, communicate with him and they go out and do well,” he said.
“It’ll happen fairly regularly. Richard Scott and Richard Johnson had a chat with our bowlers [at lunch on day one of Middlesex’s defeat to Warwickshire] and they got a wicket through that plan.
“They felt proud when they had contributed to the team.
“For me as a coach, when Sam Robson got his runs early season when John Simpson got his 97 first game, you feel that you’re helping with their development.
“They’ve got to cross the white line and perform but you’re hoping to support them. It is very rewarding I must say to call on your experiences and help others develop. You do feel very proud of that.”