Injury issues concern Ramps
MANY of the preview pieces that have appeared in the last week or so, have Mark Ramprakash down as being a key player for Surrey this season.
Unfortunately, the great man is not getting any younger and a back problem, which surfaced last summer, is refusing to go away.
The maker of 35,539 first-class runs said: "I'm still worried about my back. I had an injection in October.
"I've done some good training over the winter – I've been back training with the squad since after Christmas – and I had another injection in my back a few weeks ago.
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"That was to make sure I'm in as good a condition as I can be for the next three or four months. Initially, my target for the season is to be in as good a physical condition as I can be in, and, from there, it's to contribute all I can.
"I want to be available for all cricket, that's very important to me. Of course, the one-day side played brilliantly to win the CB40, so I know I'm going to have to play very well to play all cricket.
"First and foremost I want to contribute as much as I can to Surrey, to the squad, not just on the field, but off the field.
"If there's any help I can give to these young guys, I'm very open and willing to do that. Of course I've got my own game, and I want to try and reach high standards."
But if Ramprakash needed any incentive, the chance of having a crack at the championship title will spur him on. He said: "Everyone at the club, all the players, we want to be challenging for titles.
"The main title, for me anyway, is the County Championship and it's very exciting to be back in Division One, although I don't want to overdo the difference between the two divisions.
"We've got a lot of championship cricket in the first seven weeks, so I think it's going to be very interesting. I think the squad is very well balanced. We've got a really good mix between experience and youth now."
When Ramprakash first stepped into the dressing room at Surrey 11 years ago, he was part of a well-oiled unit. The 42-year-old has also seen the club endure some tough times, but he now senses the Oval outfit is close to being back to where they were.
He added: "In 2001 it was a very mature squad. I think we had 13 international players and they all knew their games. They were all tried and tested, had been around the block a bit and were at their peaks. That's a utopia really. That's where you are aiming.
"This squad has the ability to emulate that team. They're not there yet, I want us to keep a sense of realism. We were inconsistent in four-day cricket last year, for most of the season. However, I'm very excited about this year.
"There's healthy competition among the young players and of course the old ones still want to show they can contribute. As I look around and see the talent, I feel we're a match for anybody."