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This man - Sarwan!
by Venu Palaparthi
Apr 15, 2005
Although less than 25 years of age, Sarwan has played the anchor role for his side several times already. On April 11, at the end of day 4, Sarwan said - "we needed someone to take responsibility and bat through the day, and that became my responsibility.”

He lived up to his word on day 5 as he completed his seventh test 100 and was undefeated on 107 while the tail collapsed around him.

Humble Beginnings: An island called Wakenaam!

Wakenaam Island occupies 17 ½ square miles of this planet and sits at the mouth of the Essequibo river in Guyana. The island is dotted with villages that have very Caribbean names like Good Success, Friendship, and Free and Easy. 75% of the 13,000 people that live on the island are of East Indian descent.

Thanks to a prodigious son of the soil, the world now knows about Wakenaam. A fellow called Ramnaresh “Ronnie” Sarwan.

Sarwan left for Georgetown in his pre-teen years from Essequibo village in Wakenaam. Even as an eleven year old, he had acquired considerable fame as the fellow that scored those centuries for Stella Maris in the Under-12 competition. Before long, he had blazed a wicked trail as the child prodigy from the Georgetown Cricket Club. By 1995, aged just 14, he was a star with both the bat and the ball at the regional under-19 level.

He was to become the youngest first class player for West Indies when he was named for the team that played Barbados in the Red Stripe Cup at the age of 15 years and 235 days.

Test debut and the elusive century!

In May of 2000, Sarwan made his test debut against Pakistan in Barbados. His score of 84 not out helped West Indies build an impressive 145 run lead over Pakistan in the first innings. He followed that up with some great performances in the West Indies tour of England.

The same year, in the series down under, he fared miserably. Without making excuses, he said that the death of his girlfriend played heavily on his mind during that series (see story below). Although he recovered some of the form in the series that followed, it was not until November of 2002 that he truly got his magic back.

On 6 November 2002, the Keenan Stadium in Jamshedpur witnessed the coming of age of Ramnaresh Sarwan, who hung around to pull off a sensational last-ball win for West Indies. Sarwan smashed the final ball from Ajit Agarkar to the extra-cover fence. His outstanding performance, 83 off 89 balls, won him the Man of the Match. It contained half-a-dozen boundaries and three big sixes.

Although his averages were high and he made a name for himself, he did not have a century against his name. It wasn't until December of 2002, 28 test matches and 49 innings after he started playing cricket, that Sarwan finally scored his first century!

Consistency is the name of his game!

Sarwan played an important role in restoring West Indies some lost pride during the summer of 2003. West Indies had lost 4 ODIs in a row to the visiting Aussies. Lara, Hinds, Gayle and Sarwan engineered a comeback in the fifth ODI putting an end to Australia’s 21 match winning streak. Sarwan scored 32 and 50 in this fifth and sixth matches which West Indies won. West Indies won with a thumping nine-wicket victory in the final game. The same year, aged just 22, he was named the vice captain of the West Indies team.

Sarwan gave his best to his team during the World Cup. He quick-scored 32 not out (15 balls), effectively annihilating South Africa's chances of winning the opening match of the tournament! In the second match versus the Kiwis, Sarwan finished with 75 as he led his side to within sight of the 247 run target. He scored 42 not out against the Canadians which West Indies won easily.

In the crucial match against Sri Lanka, he scored 47 but could not ensure a win despite some heavy duty heroics. Chaminda Vaas claimed four key wickets and a Dilhara Fernando bouncer sent Sarwan to the hospital with a horrific head injury. It seemed like Sri Lanka was on track for an easy win. But Ramnaresh Sarwan returned late in the innings and launched a valiant assault.

2004 and ICC Champions Trophy

Sarwan began the year well with stellar performances against South Africa. He got two centuries on that tour. That was followed by a ho-hum tour of England. But spectacular form returned whilst in Bangladesh.

In June of 2004, Ronnie Sarwan did the unimaginable! His unbeaten 261 against Bangladesh at Sabina Park was his first double-century in and was the highest score by a Guyanese in Tests, surpassing Rohan Kanhai's record of 256 against India back in 1958! He was offered 8 more overs so he could become the first Guyanese to get a test triple. But he passed on the offer. "I was told that maybe I would have eight more overs or so. But I think that due to the situation of the game – you never know what can happen with the weather. I think the team comes first."

In the ICC Champions Trophy 2004, he top scored with 75 off 99 balls in the league match versus South Africa. He repeated that performance in the semi-final versus Pakistan where he top-scored with 56 not out on a very difficult track. It was a fitting end to 2004, when he was named the Player of the Series at the ICC Champions Trophy.

The C&W contract! Sarwan puts team's interest ahead again!

Coming as he does from the island of Wakenaam where there were no phones until very recently, it is ironic that Sarwan's career was nearly completely derailed by a contract dispute involving two telecom companies.

On March 6, 2005, West Indies selectors announced that Sarwan (along with Lara and Gayle) were axed from the team because their Cable and Wireless contracts were in conflict with the Board's sponsorship deal with Digicel. Sarwan had to sit out in the first test but broke his contract with Cable and Wireless before being called to play in the second test. Lara too came back (his own contract was apparently fine, he stayed out in support of his colleagues).

Sarwan tried hard to save the second test from slipping away. He persisted as Ntini wrecked his side. In the end, he scored 107 of the 194 runs scored by his side in the second innings. It was a lost cause but he kept his word.

Side note: Keeping his word!

Before Sarwan left on the tour of England as a 19-year-old, he had been deeply in love with Lisa Kensinally, the girl he first dated when they were barely in their teens. They were inseparable. But realizing that his relationship was a source of worry among his peers and selectors, he told his girlfriend that the relationship was off - it had to be for the sake of his career.

In an utterly moving and poignant moment, Lisa accepted Sarwan's decision but extracted a promise that he would come to her funeral one day. Sarwan promised. During the 2000 tour of England, Lisa died suddenly and unexpectedly after a brief illness. Sarwan left the tour and flew home to be at her funeral before rejoining his team for the final test at Oval.

Sarwan vowed to honour his lost lady by making a success of himself. On December 10, 2002 ,When Ramnaresh Sarwan steered a ball from left-arm spinner Enamul Haque to short third man and sprinted through for the single that carried him to his first and long-delayed Test hundred at the Bangabandhu Stadium on December 10, 2002, he remembered his departed girlfriend.

"I dedicate this hundred to Lisa Kensinally," Sarwan, then 22, said of his childhood sweetheart. "She was my girlfriend and supported me all through my early days in cricket," he added.

Such is the commitment of this man - Sarwan. When West Indies require a man for a scrap over the next few weeks, you can be sure of one thing - he will be there for the team.

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