Originally published 8 months ago, Guyanese and West Indian Batting Star Ramnaresh Sarwan is now ranked #1 in the world in One day batting. With permission, we reprint Albert Baldeo's tribute to the rising star published 6/9/04.

Sarwan's Soaring Star

by ALBERT BALDEO

Attorney at Law/City Council Candidate
Many questions were asked when Lara declared the West Indian innings in the last test with Sarwan unbeaten on 261. Should Lara have even asked Sarwan what he wanted? Sarwan showed his class by putting team above self, a much needed lesson in the team.

After all, everyone willed Lara to go on to beat Sir Gary's 365*, and backed him to the end to reclaim it from Hayden with his scintillating 400*. Previous to this, Waugh actually directed Hayden to break the then world record of 375, as a matter of national pride. It again raises the question of Lara's generosity or selfishness, according to many cricket commentators.

Why did Carl Hooper said that he would never play again under Lara's captaincy? As it turned out, a full day's play was still available, and, as Virender Sehwag was told by Sachin Tendulkar, "the chance of a lifetime to make a test triple," went abegging for the selfless Sarwan. Conversely, many cricket pundits claim that Lara's personal insistence on beating Hayden's 380 may have cost West Indies a much needed win against England recently when time ran out! "Lara has double standards," many fans have complained.
Previous to his epic 261*, which is the highest Test score by a Guyanese batsman, Sarwan played two innings of the highest quality. The first was his test century (105), which was a pivotal contribution to West Indies historic victory against Australia. This victory was seminal, because it represented the highest successful fourth innings chase in test history.

That effort was superseded only by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose stellar performances of batting with a broken finger to record one of the most heroic centuries in cricket history -- coming after scoring the third fastest test century in the first test -- will remain indelible achievements in the hearts of those who followed the series. The second was a majestic 82 in 110 balls in the last test against Sri Lanka, an innings in which he executed strokes typical of a supreme purveyor and relentless executioner, a la Viv Richards.

The artistry of his legendary predecessor and countryman Rohan Kanhai seemed reincarnated. The innings was a carbon copy of Kanhai's captivating 77 in 103 balls against England in 1963. J.S. Barker, in his book, "Summer Spectacular," put it succintly, when he wrote, "He (Kanhai), pulled, hooked, drove and cut with a brilliance of timing, audacity and stroke-play which had the commentators hoarsely struggling to find new epithets." Sarwan's 79 spontaneously triggered the same frantic search for suitable epithets, and warmed the hearts of West Indians. My memory went back to Kanhai, who said, in his book, appropriately entitled "Blasting for Runs," that he was "never one for second best," and that when he was on top, he "never let up."

Just prior to the commencement of the Australian tour of the West Indies, Michael Holding, one of the all time greats of cricket and a commentator whose criticisms can be as lethal as his dreaded bouncers and blistering yorkers, pronounced that Ramnaresh Sarwan was then West Indies' best batsman. In a team which then comprised of the double world record holder Brian Lara, the "Tiger," Shivnarine Chanderpaul and "Sir" Carl Hooper, it was a startling but justified assertion from a respected statesman and scribe of the game and West Indian cricket.

After all, Holding had earned his recognition by performing without peer at the highest level of the game. Moreover, Holding's pronouncement was obviously based on close observation, undoubted experience and statistical scrutiny, which would make Sarwan the functional equivalent in the game of what Holding was called-the "Rolls Royce" of West Indian batsmen, if he continues to maintain the form he has been in, and produce the heroics. Of course, with the resurgence of Brian Lara as the world's premier batsman alongside Tendulkar, and Chanderpaul as a top performer, Sarwan has not quite maintained that position, but the healthy competition can only do wonders for West Indies cricket and their own individual performances.

Holding is not alone in his belief, or admiration. Ramnaresh Sarwan, a special son who hails from the tiny island of Wakenaam in Guyana, captured both the accolades and imagination of the cricket world on the game's greatest stage with his strokeplay, raw courage and resilience during the recent World Cup.

Those who saw him grow up before their eyes always knew that Sarwan had been groomed for greatness and had been blessed with special batting talents even before he became the youngest West Indies first-class cricketer, aged 15 years, 226 days, appearing for Guyana against Barbados in the 1994 Red Stripe Cup. For inspiration, he did not have to look far. His country had produced such batting legends as the inimitable "Corentyne Thunder" Rohan Kanhai, "Supercat" Clive Lloyd, Alvin Kallicharran, Roy Fredericks, Basil Butcher and a host of other gifted players. Each of these had ascended into cricket's Hall of Greatness by distinguishing himself with the willow, each had carved his own niche, and each had authored his own unique history.


And, of course, there were others in different departments of the game, such as Lance Gibbs, who once held the world record for taking the most wickets in test cricket, hat trick et al, Rupert Trim, the forerunner for Guyanese bowlers and Colin Croft who formed a deadly combination of fast bowlers with Holding, Marshall, Garner and Roberts; Roger Harper, Clive Lloyd and Faoud Bacchus, whose remarkable all round fielding were peerless. And what of Robert Christiani, Stephen Camacho, Leonard Baichan, Bruce Pairaudeau, and others, all of whom made batting look so easy?

Sarwan's defiant sacrifice to secure an incredible victory for the West Indies after resuming an innings abruptly truncated by a fearful blow to the helmet and an emergency visit to a nearby hospital, failed by a mere six runs. But it will be long remembered for its bravery by the 20,000 who witnessed the drama live and the millions of others around the world, watching on television.

His star had risen once again to make him the leading batsman for the West Indies in the World Cup. His 32 off 15 balls and his majestic partnership of 63 off 28 balls with Ricardo Powell powered the total to a match-winning 278 for five against South Africa in the opening match. His mature 75 off 99 balls against New Zealand began in a crisis at 46 for five and, in a partnership of 98 with Ridley Jacobs, almost clinched an unlikely victory. At the start of the World Cup, he had an average of 51.04 and a strike-rate of 79.4 in 29 one-day internationals. He has boosted that with a World Cup average of 104.50 at a strike rate of 95.87, after five matches. His recent achievements propelled him to the vice captaincy of the West Indies and precipitated Holding's favorable comments. The boy wonder had become a man, one who would not be content to be the bridesmaid, but one who would settle for nothing less than the hero.

Sarwan has a very long way to go, before his name can be called in the same breath as Brian Lara's, Sachin Tendulkar's and Steve Waugh's. There are many boundaries to cross, or scorch, depending on how you see them, many hurdles to overcome, many statistics to conquer. He must capitalize on his early start and his apparent entrenchment in the West Indies side, before he can be invited to sit in the same pew with his illustrious predecessors in the cathedral of cricket.

But he has shown enough to suggest that he will, eventually, and by divine right, be counted amongst the very greatest. Certainly, the recent hundred he made against Australia in the historic West Indian victory, was from the very top drawer, and, hopefully is an indication of many more things to come.

*Editor's note: Albert Baldeo is an attorney-at-law based in New York, USA. He is a noted statistician and writer, and has been published in WisdenOnline, Caribbean Cricket Quarterly, Cricketworld.com and other publications.

 

 
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