Mark Ramprakash: I think the stats show that England right now came into the tournament as an underdog

England batting coach, Mark Ramprakash spoke to the media ahead of England’s match against New Zealand on Friday. England lost their first game against Australia and play their second game against co-hosts New Zealand. ICC Cricket World Cup 2015: Full Coverage

Q: You seem to have been confident enough to name their team tomorrow. Are you going to name yours?

Mark Ramprakash (MR): Honest answer is I don’t know, actually. That’s not my role within the side, to be honest with you, within the group, the management group. We’ve got a practice session today, this afternoon where everyone will practice, so I think the players who didn’t play in the last game, they’ll still go through their practice routines as if they were playing.

Q: How would you assess England’s batting over the last few weeks?

MR: Encouraging, exciting. I think I was involved in a One-Day series against India at home in September where I feel there’s been a real shift from that stage. So I like the direction in which we’re going. Individual, of course, we don’t have a lot of players who have played X-number of One-Day Internationals. So many of them are still finding their way in this arena at this level, and perhaps the rhythm of their batting and the pace of their batting. But what they have shown, all of them, is that they can learn quickly and that’s the excite thing, I think. So someone like James Taylor has played well in Sri Lanka, and now he’s, again, come up with some very good quality knocks here in Australia. So he’s shown himself to be adaptable player. I view my role as really working with batsmen to be adaptable. To be able to play pace, swing, spin, all equally well, because I think if you’re going to get big scores, that’s what you have to do.

Q: You said once that you encouraged batsmen to play with freedom and express themselves. Have they been doing that as much as you’d like?

MR: Yeah, I mean, it’s a delicate balance to play with freedom but also responsibility. You know, in the caldron of the international arena, to get that balance right doesn’t always happen clearly. But I think the mentality for England to get up to speed with 50-Over cricket and the modern way of batting in this format, I’m happy with the direction that the guys are going in. Now, what are the challenges? Well, perhaps in certain conditions the ball may move around in the first 10 overs and players may have to be aware of that. And as the tournament goes on, the pitchers may turn a little bit more. So you have to assess what’s in front of you and playa accordingly.

Q: What are you saying, Mark, you don’t seem to think that England are up to speed with the modern way of One-Day batting yet. Have they got time to do that in this tournament?

MR: Well, what I mean is that I set the bar very high. So you Judge yourself against the top, top teams, established sides. I think it’s fair to say, and I think the stats show that England right now came into the tournament as an underdog. We don’t have a core of really experienced players. So I don’t think that’s anything sort of new to people. Our players are finding their way. As I said, the exciting thing is that they’ve shown they can learn quickly. So Moeen Ali is developing all the time. Gary Ballance has come in with a fantastic domestic One Day record, but hasn’t played many One Day Internationals at this level. So that’s where we’re at. We’re hoping that through good practice and preparation through sharing of information as a batting group, and hopefully enjoying their cricket and having this mentality of going out and having that aggressive intent, that they’ll start to click. We’ve seen signs of that.

Q: Are you competent that they’ll click sufficiently for England to have a good run in this?

MR: Absolutely, yeah.

Q: The stats so far in the tournament would suggest that there have been a lot more runs scored in the last 10 than the first 10. Firstly, does that surprise you at all? Secondly, should it change the way England play a little bit?

MR: Yeah, really good point. It doesn’t surprise me in that there’s been a shift, hasn’t there, in the last five years of what modern day players can achieve in the last ten overs if you’ve got wickets in hand, I suppose. So coming to the second point, for England’s approach, for the majority of the 50 overs we want our best players at the crease. We want our best batsmen, because they’re the guys that will do the damage. So, of course, we need to find that right balance of if the conditions are in our favor and good for batting or getting off to a flier, perhaps, such as we did at Hobart against Australia where we had an excellent opening partnership, and it was Ian Bell who got off to the fly then. But the conditions were batsman friendly there. If, of course, there is a bit of movement around, then the players have got to assess that and work out when to absorb pressure and perhaps when to counter punch. So that is something that you’re hoping the players can do when they’re in the crease. But actually if we can work ourselves into position where we do have wickets in hand in the last ten, of course we’re going to hurt people. We’ve got the players to do that as well.
Q: Have they calmed down in the first ten and been prepared to be patient really?

MR: You can’t have it both ways. We got criticized greatly in 2014 for not being proactive enough in the first ten overs. So now it’s a bit ironic to hear have we calmed down. As a coach I’m very careful with the sort of language you use with players. Ultimately they’ve got to work out and they’ll get judged by their performances and how they play. You know, if I was to err on one side or not, it would be that we want the players to go out and play with an aggressive mindset and that freedom and I think the best sides do that. As I’ve always said, it’s up to the top three guys really to assess those conditions and playa accordingly.

Q: Alex would probably fit into that new breed of One Day Cricket that’s coming through, but he’s not on the team. Where’s he at the at the moment?

MR: I’m glad you brought him up because he batted extremely well yesterday in a very challenging scenario that I set up. I was hugely impressed. In fact the whole trip since we’ve been in Australia I felt Alex had a whole shift in his maturity, his level of professionalism. I think he’s trained really well. It’s always a challenge for any player that if they’re not playing in the final 11, to keep themselves motivated and practice well. But he’s done that really well. He played really well in practice yesterday. He’s knocking on the door hard in my opinion, but obviously Mo and Eoin will be the ultimate in charge of that.

Q: Wanted to ask you about Alastair Cook away from the World Cup. We understand he’s back in the nets in the UK. Are you confident he can get back to his best in the Caribbean and obviously next summer as well with a lot of big Test Cricket coming up?

MR: Well, knowing Alastair as I do, I think he’s as disappointed as he was to miss out on this World Cup, and he was hugely disappointed, he’s a very resilient character. I think he will get over that and channel his energies into looking forward to 17 Test Matches in 2015 for England. Knowing his character and his ability and his experience, I fully expect him to do that. He’ll be very, very determined, I’m sure.

Q: There is a school of thought perhaps maybe his best years are behind him. Now you’re confident sort of technically he can come back?

MR: Well, he’s still a young man, isn’t he? Look, I think that it comes down to the motivation of the individual. You know? He’s already achieved a huge amount in his career, but this break that he’s had, albeit enforced, if you like, he’ll sort of reevaluate where he’s at, his career and what he wants to achieve. So I think it comes down to motivation. As far as I’m aware, he’s still highly motivated.

Q: Can you tell us a little about Ravi (Bopara) and how he’s doing, and can you offer some kind of explanation or understanding as to why a guy clearly with the talent that he’s got who, I guess, is threatened to make a real mark on International Cricket seems to kind of fall away just at the most inopportune times?

MR: Well, you’re right. He’s highly skilled, Ravi, and of course he’s played over 100 One Day Internationals for England, so that suggests a high caliber player. From what I saw, he was left out from the One Day side against India in England. But came back into the fold very determined, and I was impressed with him in Sri Lanka. I thought he played very good knocks there. He’s able to rotate the spinners very well, and I thought he showed really good temperament at the crease there and a calmness. But, yeah, it’s never easy banging at 6 or 7 there. It can be you go to the crease in different scenarios. Sometimes obviously you have to be very aggressive from bowl one. So it’s not an easy place to bat. I think he’s just felt that since he’s hit Australia he’s really not had much time in the crease. I think he’s found that quite difficult. He came up against Hobart. I thought he bowled brilliantly at him, and it was very, very difficult to sort of go in to make the last 10 overs. But actually I’m going to give a lot of credit to the way the Australians bowled it to death there. Ravi was at the crease, and it made life very difficult. I think he felt that towards the end of his innings in Perth, when he got 30-odd there, they were starting to feel a bit better rhythm. But you know, the selectors will make that judgment of whether he’s in that role. Whether he’s bowling inform and doing enough with the bat. But since he’s been left out of the side, which is always a difficult thing, having played in Sri Lanka and played in the Tri-Series he’s been pretty good. Of Course he could still have a major role to play.

Q: Have you gotten any empathy or advice that you can kind of help with him having been through, I guess, similar situations in your career?

MR: Very much so, yeah. I have a lot of empathy for players who are not selected in the final 11, and the difficulty of handling that, especially in a tournament that’s quite long, the World Cup. There is plenty of time to think about it. I certainly feel that I’ve made mistakes in my career, about how to handle it best. So that’s why he’s really champing at the bit and batting very well. He wants an opportunity. He batted very well in the game against Pakistan. It was a surprise when he got out. But I thought the way he shaped up he looked very good. Rave’s got to kind of take a little bit from that, I guess, and say, well, look, okay take some time out. Reassess, get some time away from the game, which is very important. But when he comes here to the ground that he means business. That he looks to improve and practice with a mentality to keep improving. That’s very important.

Q: Can you offer us your thoughts on the New Zealand bowling attack and how they’ve been going in this tournament so far?

MR: Well, they’ve been going very well. What I like about the attack, it’s got a good variety to it. Our players will certainly be preparing as if the ball will swing early on. And Southee and Boult showed when the ball is swinging, they’ve got the ball in the right area to create problems for batsmen. So we’re preparing for that as if the ball will swing, clearly. And then they’ve got that variety in the middle with Vettori and McCullum. So our players need to know where their scoring areas are, where they’re looking to hurt opposition, and be really clear on that.

Q: Just a bit of a last one. We’re catching up with some of your world famous supporters today. Can you just tell us about some of your favorite moments involving any particularly witty songs or shouts that you’ve heard from time to time?

MR: I’m not sure they’re particularly witty, but they’ve been very solid. There’s been many a day, long day in the field where we’ve heard the Barmy Army sort of chanting away. They do help the players, or I’ve found them to help, actually. I think they have a really good attitude to the game. They want to go to the event and enjoy it. And of course, England haven’t always been winning, so despite the result either way, they look to have a good time, and there are some fun people there, and I think they have a good attitude.

Q: With Eoin’s (Morgan) sort of run, is he the person you let go and let him figure it out, or do you work with him on different things at this time?

MR: I’ve been hugely impressed with the way Eoin’s dealt with taking over the group but also the way he manages to differentiate the captaincy and the leadership role with his own game. It’s hugely encouraging to see him get what I thought was a wonderful knock at the SCG. The hundred he got there was a real testament to his character because he wasn’t at his fluent best, and it was a tough start and the team were in trouble, and yet he showed all the resilience that we’ve come to expect from him, and some good stroke play. And he’s had this amazing run where he’s found different ways to get out but if it was another person, another character then I might have real cause for concern, because I think that it would weigh heavily on their mind. Look, he’s aware of the fact that he wants more runs and it’s important for the team that he plays his part. But in terms of handling the tournament, the pressures of it, you couldn’t really ask for better character to be able to handle that. So he’s still the same guy. You wouldn’t know whether he’s got the hundred or not as to how he’s going about his business. In terms of my role with him, I think it’s to work closely with him and I’m there as a sounding board for him. He’s obviously an experienced player. I would never be prescriptive to say I think you should do this. It’s more throwing in the odd question and seeing how he feels. Seeing how he wants to go about business. He thinks about his own game. He knows his strengths. So it’s very much the onus of responsibility is on him because of his experience. But I like to feel that I can also, having seen quite a lot of him play, just provoke thought about how he wants to go about it at this particular point.

Courtesy: ICC