DUBAI// Mark Ramprakash, the most prolific batsmen in English cricket, is counting down the days until he can get back on to the cricket field in the UAE. The enigmatic former England batsman will be one of the leading players in the Surrey squad which is heading here in March to play in the 2009 Emirates Airline ProArch Trophy. Ramprakash, 39, will always be regarded as an unfulfilled talent on the international stage. In 52 Tests he managed just two centuries.
However, he has been a phenomenon in county cricket. In 2006, his 20th season in the county game, he scored 2,278 runs at an average of over 100, while last term he notched up his 100th first-class century. His appetite for the game remains undimmed, despite a growing celebrity portfolio off the field, which includes winning the BBC TV show Strictly Come Dancing in 2006. His Surrey side are one of six counties who will play matches in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi between March 17-25 in the ProArch competition.
He said: "I'm looking forward to getting out there and starting the build-up to our season. "It will be great to play some high-level cricket in a country that has both a warm climate and good facilities. This tour will help us prepare well for the 2009 season." Despite Ramprakash's form, Surrey suffered a miserable campaign this term. Now they are hoping the UAE-effect rubs off on them, as the last ProArch Trophy proved a perfect launch pad for the counties who participated.
Their captain, the former England opener Mark Butcher, added: "The squad are looking forward to getting involved in this event as it will give us the opportunity to start improving on our one day cricket. "From the changes that we've been making to the squad and the new personnel we've brought in, it will also be a great chance for us to start playing together so we get familiar with each other's game.
"This will ensure we're ready to hit the ground running come the start of the season proper." The UAE national team, as well as the Fly Emirates side, will play in the eight-team, 50-over tournament which also features the defending champions Yorkshire, Lancashire, Essex, Sussex and Middlesex. The tournament will provide vital match practice for the UAE national team, who will then fly to South Africa for the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier.