What is the ramp?
The origin of the ramp shot is a source of great contention. Most equate it to the ‘dil-scoop’ invented by Sri Lankan batsman Tillakaratne Dilshan in which the batsman effectively paddles the ball over their head (usually off a fast bowler). Other suggest it could have originated from Douglas Marillier a Zimbabwean who played a series of similar shots earlier than Dilshan in 2002. But then again my Grandad also lays claim to inventing it in the 1970s so it’s anyones guess who ‘invented’ the shot.
ODI cricket: the home of the ramp
What is clear is that the shot is becoming increasingly prevalent in international cricket, such that it may be played half a dozen times in an ODI game. The shot is extremely effective when there is no fielder at fine leg, as virtually any contact on the ball will send it over the keepers head for either four or six. Indeed the increasing use of the reverse ramp shot too, has meant a vacant third man position is also possible to exploit.
Giving the ramp a test run?
But the ramp shot is often associated with the risk and danger that comes with ODI cricket and as such is extremely rarely seen in the longer format of the game. To get out playing the ramp shot would not only be embarrassing but also would cause widespread controversy and questioning of a player as a test match batsman.
Although Alistair Cook did play the shot against Sri Lanka in a Test match, this was on the fourth day with England chasing as many runs as possible in a short space of time in order to try to win the game.
But why can’t the ramp shot be played more often in Test cricket? I’ve come up with two possible reasons:
The first is if there is a fine leg in place. Obviously if the other team has a fine leg in place it would be stupid to play the ramp shot as you are effectively playing a game of six or out, even if you connect with the ramp shot with a fine leg in place it will often just go straight to the man.
The second scenario where playing the ramp shot in Test cricket would be silly is if the ball is moving. In ODI cricket the shot is relatively easy because the ball isn’t moving. Therefore to try playing the shot against Jimmy Anderson with the new ball in cloudy conditions would be idiotic. Once the ball is older and not moving as much it becomes a lot more of a percentage shot.
Of course these reasons are definitely enough to suggest there are times where the ramp shot would be a foolish shot to play in test cricket. However, if the ball is not swinging and there is no fine leg there seems to be little or nothing against playing the shot.
Why the ramp?
Test cricket is all about assessing risk / reward scenarios and the ramp shot is often low risk but high reward.
While the ramp shot looks incredibly impressive, it is actually one of the easier unconventional shots to play. As long as you get into a good position as a batsman the action of just flicking the ball under your eyeline is not actually that difficult.
Indeed, it may even be easier to play the shot in test cricket than in ODI cricket, this is because it is easier to predict the line and length that a bowler is going to bowl in a test match than in an ODI. One day bowling is characterised by slower balls and variations which make playing the ramp more difficult. But a test match line and length can be fairly uniform making the shot possibly easier.
So it is probably a lot less risky than people think and the reward (with no fine leg) is a boundary virtually every time. But the shot also brings other benefits, most importantly it causes doubt in the opposition captain’s mind.
Not only would the shot cause him to move a fielder from one position to fine leg, it would also keep him second guessing what the batsman may do next. ‘If he is willing to play the ramp, he’ll do anything’. When captain’s start second guessing batsmen like this it can often create muddled fields and mistakes. Apart from anything else the bowler will be confused and thrown off. All of this means that one or two ramp shots can completely change the mindset of a fielding team, meaning the batsman could go back to playing normal shots for more runs than he was getting before.
Ten years ago the reverse sweep was a shot that was castigated for being too risky. Now it’s in every good test batsmen’s repertoire. In ten years we’ll probably be saying the same about the ramp shot.
A note of caution
In light of Nasser Hussain’s recent comment that there is a difference between a ‘positive brand of cricket and a rubbish brand of cricket’ it is important to remember there is a time and place for this shot. I am not suggesting it become an essential shot in test match cricket, I am merely suggesting it has a place in the longer form and can prove very useful not only in run scoring but also in manipulating the field as well as the opposition captain’s mentality. It will only take one brave batsman to start playing the ramp in test matches and soon enough it could have captain’s all over the world scratching their heads.