Ramps turns up the amps

The Inland Revenue Department is coming down heavily on the cricketers. Ted Corbett elaborates.

May 21:Those greedy men in the Inland Revenue Department turn their attention to the Test cricketers and no doubt open a very large can of worms. They decide that four tickets each for every one of the seven Test matches — a total of no more than �1,000 — is what they call a benefit in kind and they propose to levy a high rate of tax on that total which grows because there is hospitality involved. So what about the other benefits in kind, like free meals in the pavilions around the country and all that equipment and clothing that comes free of charge from generous manufacturers? Heavens, before we know it, these sporting millionaires will be begging in the streets.

May 22 : Not that England's super sportsmen are short of Test runs at the moment. Five of their willow wielders hit centuries at Lord's — Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior and Kevin Pietersen — and Cook adds a fifty in the second innings. There is even the threat that the captain Andrew Strauss can lose his place because he scores so poorly in Australia and in this Test. That will be a shock although I remember that Chris Cowdrey plays as captain in the Ashes match at Leeds — where the gateman refuses him admission for a while because he does not recognise him — and is then left out and never plays again. Funny game, right? But what about poor Mark Ramprakash? He scores his 89th first class century recently. Ramps, one of the nicest guys around even if he freezes when he gets into the Test side, makes 676 runs already this summer, including four hundreds — 115, 107 not out, 120 not out and 266 not out. Last season he makes 2,278 runs at 103.54 and all in all he has 29,309 runs. He is the outstanding English batsman of the last four years and particularly since he went from Middlesex to Surrey. I bet a lot of Test teams will be happy to find a spot for such a high scoring batsman. Come to think of it, his father is born in Guyana, which means that Ramprakash must qualify for West Indies, especially as it is now more than five years since he last plays for England. Has anyone got the phone number of the chairman of the West Indies selectors? While the Board is thinking about it, they might recruit Lewis Hamilton, the wonder boy of motor racing, who has links back to Grenada. If he drives the team bus they will certainly make their escape from the Test grounds on which they perform so badly much more quickly.

May 23: The phone rings. On the other end is a very distinguished if conservative man of cricket, a former Test batsman and captain, ECB committee chairman and president of his county. "Ted, will you be at Headingley?" "Yes." "Do you think you will run into Ryan Sidebottom?" "I'm not sure. Why?" "If you do I would like you to give him a message?" "Yes?" "Tell him to get his ruddy hair cut. Who does he think he is — Samson?" Frankly, I don't care how big Sidebottom wears his hair but it is an issue among old guys like my friend and it may even be one of the reasons he plays only one Test. By the end of the match a handful of wickets seems to prove it does not matter how long your hair grows.

May 24: Ken Schofield is a Scot, brought up as a golfer in a land where cricket is held in no higher regard than mah jong or elephant polo. He admits he knows "nil" about cricket as he attempts to solve the problems that result in the Ashes whitewash. "I leave that to the experts on my committee," he says. We listen to his views for 80 minutes while one reporter finds it so boring that he reads through the Headingley honours boards and a lady from television falls asleep. These responses are partly due to Mr. Schofield's boring voice and partly due to his easily anticipated suggestions. I will further anticipate that there is no real change at all. A few new titles, a little rebranding and the expenditure of a couple of pounds, But that is exactly what we expect.

May 25: A newspaper claims that Ian Botham is to receive a knighthood in the Queen's Birthday Honours List next month. I know it is true because this same newspaper pays him the cost of a small house annually to allow it to publish his views on cricket. Don't ask where they hear their scoop first; their editorial staff will be embarrassed. Not that Botham is unworthy to be a knight of the realm. Twenty years ago the word leukaemia means a death sentence. In his impressionable teen years Botham goes to a hospital full of kids who are going to die and it gets to him in a big way. Being a man of action he walks the length of several countries to raise money but, more importantly, to focus attention on this disease. He succeeds to the extent that when a friend of mine discovers he has leukaemia he gets a prescription for a single daily pill; and continues a normal life. That improvement is partly down to Ian Botham and I salute the decision to reward him. Whatever his faults Botham is a generous soul and he deserves this generous response.

May 26: Matthew Hoggard, family man, dog lover and now a father finds his absence from the second Test a blessing. "It gives me the chance to learn how to be a dad," he says. While his pals are tearing the West Indies to pieces Matthew is getting to know little Ernie, 15 miles away in his home on the Yorkshire Moors.

May 27: Mrs. Veronica Trueman visits the ground where her late husband makes his name, but not without a few misgivings. It takes a number of invitations before she will accept the Yorkshire committee's wish that she spend time at the Test because Fred's relationship with the club is not always a happy one. I am glad in some ways that he is no longer here for he will read the news of Ian Botham's knighthood with even greater misgivings since he believes that two Prime Ministers — Harold Wilson and John Major — promise to make him a Sir and he is cut to the quick when Alec Bedser receives a knighthood. Bedser also gives service to the game with a long spell as chairman of selectors. Still, there is a little good news for the Trueman family. A train is to be named after him and British Rail are making special arrangements so that the naming ceremony does not clash with a cricketing day. How Trueman, an inveterate cigar smoker, views the news that the first anniversary of his death also marks the start of a complete ban on smoking in this country we will never know.