Mark Ramprakash has heard so much about the potential for cricket in the UAE, he is hoping it lives up to great expectations.
UAE can help heal 'suffering' in Pakistan
Mark Ramprakash has heard so much about the potential for cricket in the UAE, he is hoping it lives up to great expectations because it can only benefit the game and particularly a "suffering" nation. The former England batsman is a member of the Surrey team to take part in this year's Emirates Airline ProArch Trophy and he is eager to sample the Gulf's sporting delights.
Ramprakash is aware the Emirates is touted as a possible base for Pakistan as the country tries to salvage its international future. It is in jeopardy following the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus and match officials in Lahore. Six policemen and a driver were killed while seven players and an assistant coach were injured. Ramprakash admits: "Pakistan cricket is suffering. They are not playing international cricket and they need that.
"I have played with some great players from there like Saqlain Mushtaq, Azhar Mahmood and Mushtaq Ahmed and I feel for their cricketers. "I am sure Pakistan will continue to produce good players like they have done, but they need to play internationals. I have heard a lot of good things about what is happening with cricket in the UAE and I am looking forward to seeing it for myself. "It definitely has potential and with the infrastructure and facilities in place, it could probably be a base for Pakistan to stage Test and one-dayers and also host international tournaments."
With fears now over security at the Indian Premier League (IPL), Ramprakash knows there is concern among the cricketers involved. But should anyone decide to pull out of April's tournament, he would be more than happy to step in. At 39, he knows time is against him playing in the prestigious and lucrative Twenty20 event, despite achieving the career landmark of 100 first-class centuries last year.
"I have never had any problem going to India and I would be happy to go if needed for the IPL," he says. "I understand players are worried about security, but India is a place where I have always felt comfortable. "I would love to have played in the IPL, but you have to be invited. It would have been nice if they had done something like this in the past, but I have no regrets. I know I have tried my hardest for many years and had some good times."
He certainly has since he first started out with Middlesex in 1987. His current contract with Surrey will take him up to 2011 and with an average of more than a hundred in 2006 and 2007, he sees no reason to move into coaching just yet."I have done my level four coaching and it is a step in that direction, but for the moment I am still playing," he says. "When you get to this stage of your career, the target is to enjoy every game. We have some good young players at Surrey and I want to help them develop."
Ramprakash sees the Pro Arch Trophy as a good chance to do that. They will face his former county Middlesex and Yorkshire, the side who were victims of the stylish batsman's first century - in 1989 - and then the ton of tons last August at Headingley. Sentimental or not, it will be a challenge for Surrey with Yorkshire expected to include a fired-up Michael Vaughan in their side. The former England captain is hoping to find form to force his way back into the Test side for this summer's Ashes.
Vaughan is a contender for the No 3 spot and Ramprakash says: "He has the experience, he has the quality, and knows what is needed at Test level - but it is important he scores big runs," before adding: "Getting back with Yorkshire in a more relaxed environment will be good for him. I am looking forward to facing him and Yorkshire." firstname.lastname@example.org