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Sarwan keen to cause England more pain

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Oliver Brett | 06:00 UK time, Monday, 4 May 2009

You can count the autograph-hunters at Chelmsford on the fingers of one hand, but it's still an effort for a weary Ramnaresh Sarwan, vast cricket bag slung over one shoulder, to attend to their wishes.

"Doesn't he have someone to carry his bag for him?" asks the sole female member of this hardy band of aficionados. The gnarled security guard on the gate at the County Ground just looks skywards.

Ramnaresh Sarwan

After dutifully scribbling his name a few times, the West Indies star with the distinctive diamond ear-rings confirms he is happy to chat to the BBC, but first he needs some treatment.

A full hour after submitting himself to the physio's table, "Sars" limps onto the team coach and we reconvene at a trendy hotel in a village just outside town - the sort of boutique joint favoured by wedding parties.

But still, Sarwan is not quite ready. He asks the girl on reception to recommend a Thai restaurant, and somewhat cheekily - but with lashings of charm - mimics her local accent. Then, finally, we can begin.

Sarwan's stunning success against England in the early part of the year (626 runs in just six Test innings in the Caribbean) came too late to persuade any of the Indian Premier League franchises to offer him a deal this year.

Nevertheless, I suggest, his fans must have been surprised that he was overlooked.

Sarwan laughs but admits: "I was a bit surprised to be honest." By way of explanation, he adds: "I think the way the Twenty20 has been going they are looking for more all-rounders now. If they don't pick the genuine quick bowlers, they pick bowlers who can bat or batsmen who can bowl, so they are very clear on what they are looking for."

Having had a brief taste of the action in 2008 during four matches for the Kings XI Punjab he is not averse to having another crack at the league some time in the future.

"I just want to concentrate on what is happening now, and hopefully everything will fall into place."

One thing is very much in the past, however - the small matter of the West Indies captaincy. When Brian Lara retired after the 2007 World Cup, Sarwan was appointed as his successor, but the tenure lasted only until the first day of the second Test when he crashed into a boundary fence at Headingley as he attempted to cut off a four.

The shoulder injury was so severe that he was ruled out of the remainder of the tour, then for a further 10 months. By the time he finally returned, as vice-captain to Chris Gayle, his replacement was rather enjoying the role and remained in charge.

At 28, Sarwan is still relatively young. Having been Lara's deputy for so many years, does he not harbour thoughts of leading the team out once again?

"No, no. I think I've had my opportunity to captain the West Indies and am not even thinking about it now. I just want to concentrate on what I have to do. Obviously Chris has been doing great and we've got the young guy Denesh Ramdin as vice-captain."

Born on an island in Guyana's Essequibo River, Sarwan was thrust into West Indies' middle order as a 19-year-old, and had just turned 20 when touring England for the first time in 2000.

In a series dominated by bowlers (England had Gough and Caddick, the Windies Ambrose and Walsh) Sarwan outshone Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Jimmy Adams to top the averages.

Inevitably, inconsistencies crept into his batting - at his best he is a naturally gifted right-hander whose nimble footwork at the crease is a joy to behold - but he continued to be seen as one of the few really good West Indians of his generation


The 2000 series was, famously, the first time West Indies had lost the Wisden Trophy following a 31-year period of plenty. But having finally won it back a couple of months ago, are they on the verge of handing it back to England at the first opportunity?

Sarwan thinks not: "We have an outstanding chance. I thought we played really well in the Caribbean but the conditions are totally different so it's going to be a challenging test for all of us.

"Quite a few of us have played here before, but we've got quite a young team as well - a new group of guys - so it's important the ones who have played here give some experience to the younger ones.

"We have to play well as a team. We really can't depend on one or two players, we have to bat as batting unit and bowl as a bowling unit.

"You don't want to be too over-confident. It's important to understand that you start from scratch again. I don't want to get too ahead of myself and hopefully I'll be able to continue the same form that I've had in the Caribbean."

The condescending attitude some people in England appear to have towards any Test cricket that does not involve Australia clearly rankles.

"It was said our series was a warm-up for the Ashes and that's been noticed in the Caribbean. Right now we've got a battle on our hands to concentrate on playing England - it's up to them whether they want to get two months ahead of themselves."

Are there any new players who we should look out for this summer?

He names 32-year-old opening batsman Dale Richards as someone we should keep our eyes on, as well as the paceman Andrew Richardson, 27, who has experience of English league cricket.

Perhaps the most exciting new fast bowler is Nelon Pascal, just 22 - and his emergence is one of the reasons why Sarwan resists the opportunity to condemn Sir Allen Stanford, who came with his dollars to regenerate West Indian cricket, before leaving just as quickly after becoming the subject of an American fraud investigation.

"Really and truly I think [Stanford] has shown a lot of young guys through. Quite a few came though the [domestic] Stanford Twenty20, young players like Pascal. If it wasn't for that god knows what we would have seen, or how many young players we would have seen coming through."

This exasperated comment suggests he is not too thrilled with the grassroots development of the game in the Caribbean.

Sarwan expands: "It's not the situation like you have in county cricket, where a player can get contracted for £70,000 a season or whatever. But I think some sort of improvement will happen with first-class cricket. There might be some solid security, I think, a direct commitment from the board.

"I think the board is going to try to start a Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean because at the moment we don't have one."

He concedes interest in the sport across the region has dwindled alarmingly, but feels recent success against England has arrested the slump.

"When we played against you guys it kind of changed all that. It created some interest. You can't blame people. The fact we have played so badly the past couple of years, they were kind of distancing themselves.

"But now we've been playing pretty well we're getting some support again. American sport has been creeping into West Indian society a bit but cricket is still the number one sport in the Caribbean and it always will be, regardless of whether we play good or bad."

It's a good place to finish. With one last smile, and a gracious "thanks a lot, you take care now", Sarwan bids farewell, no doubt looking forward to a long soak in a bath before sampling the finest green curry Essex can produce.


  • Comment number 1.

    I don't subscribe to the view that everything should be regarded as preparation for the Ashes. Beating the Old Enemy is important obviously, but they are no longer the undisputed benchmark for one thing, and the other is that this is a genuinely talented WI team.

    People like Shiv, Sarwan and Gayle are world class, and Bravo has a lot to prove. I think England have a very good chance to get back on track this summer with new faces, and I hope the last few years' instability has ended with the appointment of Flower.

    That 2000 series was one of the best I can remember and I hope the couple of tests against WI comes close.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sarwan is a world-class batsman.

    Just completed a full Caribbean tour - two test matches and five (count em .. FIVE) one-dayers seems like a futile exercise. Another example of greedy administrators over-egging the international calendar?

    Anybody who truly loves the game wants to see the West Indies a competitive force again.

    Hard to judge exactly where they are at, those pitches in the winter were dreadfully slow. I would suggest the signs under Chris Gayle's captaincy are promising. Perhaps tantalising three players short of the real deal. A couple of top-order batsman and a third seamer to support Edwards and Taylor. A shame the promising Marlon Samuels is not available for selection, and Dawyne Bravo is not touring.

  • Comment number 3.

    Sarwan is a good Test batsman. Just like SNC. IPL looks for red hot chillies. Gayle would play as a batsman even if he never bowls. Fidel Edwards was big value for money with DC. McGrath and Colly have been waiting on DD sidelines, and so was Warner until the door went ajar with injury to Sehwag. Ntini is yet to get a game for CSK.

    Places do not come easy in a competitive set up like the IPL, with matches flashing past one's vision like bogies of the TGV. If Bopara made the opening slot his own in the KXIP it speaks volumes about his intrinsic quality, and they'll miss him bad. Still Colly will come back richer to England T20 squad, and I am not referring to money at all. Glad that selectors see him as a suitable captain.

    What other preparations do England need for the Ashes except beating the WI. Do it comprehensively and you are ready, with places sorted. Fail to do so, no jiggery pokery will do instead. If WI still manage to twist England's tail margins are somewhat thin now.

    My view is England have arrived at their optimal squad, for the Test series at least. The only place I wished tackled was in the opening, pushing Cook to three. If they can find someone like Phillip Hughes for the Aussies, huge. Easier said than done, but opening is a very critical area. For now, all systems go.

  • Comment number 4.

    I feel this summer we will see England go from strength to strength and the West Indies will be blowen away.

    They have played badly for an international team losing to the England Lions... I predict that the build up will be great (start of the cricket summer and all that), then the West Indies will then be blown away because they dont have enough players who can play in England. Yes they have some but not enough.

  • Comment number 5.

    Perhaps some of the over-confident, condescending type might be in for a big surprise if the West Indies play well enough to win the truncated Test series. The key is setting the batting order!

    Patience is a vital component in any batsman's armoury. It takes patience to chisel out a prolonged stay at the crease and, as most know, the runs will come as long as you're out there. You cannot score by warming a pavilion bench.

    As usual, Shivnarine Chanderpaul will lead the charge, and Nash has shown that he, too, can occupy the crease for an extended period. In many ways, he's like Shiv. Now, Shiv has got competition in this area. Logic seems to suggest that with his temperament Brendon Nash should open the innings.

    Ideally, Gayle should bat at three and Shiv at four. Gayle's impulsivity makes him vulnerable to getting out early by edging to the slip cordon. So, that means that Simmons should be the other opener.

  • Comment number 6.

    I want to wish the windies well this summer, most of the players has
    potential,their technique is all wrong against the moving ball,they have
    no patience they do not seem to understand their roles in the Team ,they

    do read the game situation and play accordingly they must adapt to Test

    I want to wish the Windies well this summer,I think they will loose the
    series,because (technique,patience,and reading the game situation is not
    our strong point, or understanding they roles in the Team.)More than
    ever those in the Team most be made to understand the Batsman whose in
    must stay and do the job.A job for the Captain do you think? Good luck
    Windies. 'Hitnhard'


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