Mark Ramprakash says county pitches are hindering England's hunt for top-order batsmen
"There is a huge emphasis on white-ball cricket, smacking it into the stands. It's great to watch but is it to the detriment of the art of batting? I would suggest yes."
Last Updated: 08/02/19 8:28pm
England batting coach Mark Ramprakash says 'inexplicable' county pitches are not helping create top-order batsmen for Test cricket.
England have been bowled out for 77, 246, 187 and 132 in the first two Tests against Windies to slip to a series defeat and will now try to avoid a whitewash in St Lucia from Saturday, live on Sky Sports Cricket.
Asked by Sky Sports' Ian Ward whether domestic surfaces were allowing top-order players to hone their craft, Ramprakash said: "In a word, no.
"I'm trying to be diplomatic here but the stats would say fewer batsmen are getting 1,000 runs, let alone 1,500, in county cricket.
"Is that a lack of skill? Maybe - but I'd suggest it is more to do with 'a quick game's a good game'. We are playing four-day games in April when conditions are tough, pitches have a lot of grass on them.
"I went to Lord's last year on July 25 for Middlesex versus Warwickshire and the pitch was indistinguishable from the outfield and Middlesex were 70-7 at lunch. That was after five weeks of 30-degree heat.
"It's just inexplicable - I don't know how groundsmen can possibly justify the pitches we are playing on at the moment.
"We are looking for batsmen with good technique and concentration to bat time - to get through the new ball and build an innings.
"Are we creating the right conditions for that, with four four-day games in April, four in September and not much in between?
"There is a huge emphasis on white-ball cricket, the excitement, smacking it into the stands. It's great to watch but is it to the detriment of the art of batting? I would suggest yes."
Ramprakash also cited tour preparation as a reason for England's batting woes in Barbados and Antigua as they slumped to 381-run and 10-wicket defeats respectively to relinquish the Wisden Trophy.
Joe Root's side played just a pair of two-day warm-up games against a Cricket West Indies President's XI before they faced Jason Holder's men at Kensington Oval.
"The results are there for everyone to see. It's not gone well, it's as simple as that," Ramprakash said of England's batting.
"I am always a little bit wary of the modern-day tours and the opportunity players have to have match practice.
"I guess when you go into the first Test, get knocked over and the batters don't get much time at the crease, suddenly you can look at that and think: 'Am I a bit short of practise?'
"You don't really want players thinking in that way so that is one element I think we should reflect on.
"You can try and bring nets and practice alive as much as you can but, and I know it sounds very old-fashioned, time in the middle is so handy.
You have to ask the question – can we improve our defence? That is not something that has been talked about too much – we don’t have practises designed on seeing how good you are at defending.
"It is a challenge [for players] and that is assuming you get picked for the first Test - Joe Denly missed out on the first Test but was picked for the second, so his gap was even longer. I think it is important to recognise that as another element modern-day players have to contend with.
"We perhaps were also a little bit guilty of not realising where the Windies were at as an opposition.
"They played extremely well in Barbados - I was so impressed with the way their bowling attack bowled in partnerships and also not just with their pace and hostility but also their accuracy."
Darren Bravo earned plaudits for his battling 50 from 216 balls - during which he compiled the slowest half-century by a West Indian in Tests - on a fruity Antigua pitch.
England's entire second innings lasted only 253 deliveries as they succumbed to a three-day defeat.
"We have several players who have played over 50 Tests and you are looking for that experience to lead the way but they are human," added Ramprakash.
"A lot of our players haven't necessarily played loads of first-class cricket but you would hope they would work out conditions and adapt.
"Again, though, it's recognising that in the current climate a lot of modern players are playing one-day cricket and there is only one way - go hard. That is what is being spoken about in terms of batting - see it, hit it.
"You look recently at Kumar Sangakkara, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, people with a very good defence and concentration who are prepared to play the long game.
“At international level you expect movement but when it’s uneven bounce it becomes very difficult. One of the best players in the world [Root] received two deliveries which, in my opinion, weren’t to do with skill – it was a bit of lottery as the ball bounced prodigiously.
Mark Ramprakash on Antigua Test
"They perfected the art of batting over long periods and we are constantly challenging our players - can you do that? I think this has been a great learning [experience] for some of our players.
"We want confident players, we want them to look for run-scoring opportunities and back themselves. Ultimately the player has to weigh up the surface and the bowler and see how he feels.
"But you have to accept that there will be periods where good bowlers get it right and it is very difficult to counter attack - you might have to absorb pressure and back your defence. Mentality is important in recognising those periods of play and getting through them.
"We have to match Windies for that intensity and want to be in the fight. It's not that I don't think we are doing that but there is a combination of factors we are working on.
"Hopefully we see a better fight and effort in St Lucia."
Watch the third Test between Windies and England, in St Lucia, live on Sky Sports Cricket from 1.30pm on Saturday. You can also follow over-by-over commentary and in-play clips on our rolling blog on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app.