When the news emerged late last night in the Telegraph that Mark Ramprakash will be announcing his retirement tomorrow it was somehow less of a shock than it might have been had it broken at, say, the end of last season. Ramps being dropped earlier in the season had effectively prepared us for this eventuality. Insofar as you can ever prepare for the retirement of nothing short of a legend, scorer of 61 First Class hundreds for Surrey. To put that into perspective, he's scored twenty more centuries for Surrey than Rory Hamilton-Brown has played matches for Surrey.
Nevertheless, for someone who hit the ball so gracefully and effectively for so long, this is one of Ramprakash's more curious bits of timing. The announcement coming as it will in the middle of a very difficult week for Surrey. One could quite easily make the argument though that he's more than earned the right to go precisely as and when he chooses, and now is hardly the time to dwell on such issues, not much could dampen the enormous affection Surrey supporters feel for him.
I had always imagined he'd go out this year on a high with a big hundred in our final game against Lancashire, just as he ended the 2007 season with a big hundred against that same opposition. But it seems it is not to be. We don't yet know for sure when Ramprakash will call it a day once and for all, but "with immediate effect" looks to be the favourite.
That should not detract from a stunning career, even if 200-odd matches of it were for our rivals from across the river. He is certainly the best batsman I've ever watched for Surrey, by some considerable distance. His presence at the crease, especially in those two golden years where he averaged 100 over an entire season, was always a comfort. If he was still there, Surrey were still in with a chance of a big total. Even this year when he was struggling terribly to get the ball of the square I always thought a return to form was just around the corner.
He is a Surrey legend, and a hero of mine, pure and simple. In 158 matches with Surrey he's scored almost 16,000 first class runs at just under 70 (yes, you read that right, seventy), 5,000 List A runs at 47 and 1,700 Twenty20 runs for good measure. Not to mention those 61 hundreds. They are incredible, but numbers do not do the man justice, nor for that matter could any words I can come up with.
Yes he was a grumpy bugger when he got out, and on more than one occasion he's incurred the wrath of the England and Wales Cricket Board for overstepping the mark. But who cares? He's a genius. Watching Ramprakash bat was to watch a master of his craft, unquestionably one of the best two or three county batsmen of the last twenty years. The best if you ask me.
Despite that fiery reputation he always seemed to have an impossibly calm manner at the crease, and an effortlessly cool walk for good measure. He swaggered like some sort of cricketing Disco Stu, I adored watching him bat. Maybe it was always meant to be that he'd end his career on 114 first class hundreds, the same number as Sir Viv, a childhood hero of his.
I would love to see him take up a coaching role at the club, our young and talented squad could do a lot worse than inherit some of Ramps' dedication and focus. But whatever he goes on to do I wish him well, we might not see him again in a Surrey kit, but we'll see plenty more of Mark Ravin Ramprakash I'm sure. So long Ramps, all the best.