A bright future beckons Sarwan

Stabroek News
May 2, 2000

For many ardent West Indian followers and supporters over the age of 45, remembering the great batting exploits of Guyanese Rohan Babulall Kanhai is like a very pleasant dream, especially when he was paired, in the mind and on the field of play, with the incomparable Barbadian, Sir Garfield Sobers.

These guys were at their peak mainly in the 60s. One such situation developed in 1968 when England were the tourists. Kanhai made 150 and Sobers made 152 in the Bourda Test match. Believe me, the grass actually became brown after such a shellacking.

Of course, younger supporters would also remember that other great pair of batsmen of the 70s too, Guyanese Alvin Kallicharran and Jamaican Lawrence Rowe, who so dominated bowlers, they had many a friendly tussle between themselves, before the advent of the "Master Blaster", (Sir) Vivian Richards. One would get that impression that, like fast bowlers operating "in fours", especially in the Caribbean, batsmen in these parts seem to come in at least "twos", or pairs, except Richards of course, who was basically on his own, but superlative.

Well, I am here to tell you that the same could again happen sometime in the not too distant future. Ramnaresh Sarwan of Guyana and Sylvester Joseph of Antigua & Barbuda and the Leeward Islands, two of the youths of the future West Indies cricket team, would most probably emulate their legendary counterparts. These guys, young as they are, inexperienced as they are, will be very special in their own way when they eventually take centre stage, already here, in a way. Let us see what we find when we put the microscope on Sarwan.

In June, 2000, Sarwan will be 20 years old. That is as good a time as any to start one's "real" international cricket career. Sobers started his career much younger than that, and so too, recently, did Shivnarine Chanderpaul. After his showing so far this year, and hopefully, continuing from there, one should not be too far wrong if one suggests that Sarwan would be selected in the West Indies squad for the tour of England this English summer. What a birthday present that would be for the young Guyanese.

Indeed, with his selection in the 14-man West Indies squad for the first and ultra important Test against Pakistan at Bourda, Sarwan at least has an opportunity, even if he does not actually play, to learn something of the"big leagues" by rubbing shoulders with the "big ones." Since Joseph has already made his One Day International debut against the Pakistanis in Grenada last month, Sarwan could also be allowed to get his true international colours. Guyanese fans would rejoice!!

Many of the older supporters have already suggested that Sarwan reminds them so much of the budding "Lall", Rohan Kanhai. The slight, but very loose frame, the liquidity of movement, the standard seemingly effortless, but effective ability of dispatching bowlers, fast and slow, to all parts of the field, yet the nonchalance of seemingly not being involved at all, are all there. If anything, Sarwan seems so confident, something I knew was very much part of the make-up of Kanhai, that perhaps he still thinks that cricket is a game. Soon, he will probably understand it is his job, and therefore more thought would have to be put into the effort, if his career is to blossom from the bud it is now, and take off to being the wonderful fruit it can become, and last some considerable time too.

Sarwan has been playing for Guyana since 1995, as a youth player, and since 1996, as a regular member of the senior four-day squad. He has actually done quite a lot since his arrival on the cricket scene. Not only has he impressed everyone with his obvious poise, even if he has not yet really produced scores, before this year, to really impress with statistics, but he has already been on two tours, almost simultaneously. In 1997, he was selected to that ill-fated Youth World Cup in South Africa, then asked to stay on for the West Indies "A" team tour there. He impressed all with his poise and understanding of the game.

Amazingly, he is the first batsman anywhere in the Caribbean recently that anyone could have suggested, after just seeing him bat once, that, all things being equal, he will definitely play for the West Indies. The last person to have such an accolade was Chanderpaul himself. If anything is sure, then, after those two classy centuries, 100 and 111, against Zimbabwe while playing for the West Indies Cricket Board President's XI, in which he displayed all of his abilities of driving, cutting and stroking, it was a certainty that Sarwan had pencilled in his name for future, higher honours.

The 1st innings 100 against Zimbabwe at Guaracara Park was one of those innings that will probably be remembered by all who saw it for some time to come. "Classy" just begins to describe that innings.

There was a feeling that Sarwan could have been somewhat "big-headed" in the past. That is as maybe. Perhaps he now understands that cricket at its highest level is not played with words, but by deeds.

Sarwan is nobody's fool. He knows where he wants to go. Somehow, he also gives the impression that he knows where he is. All he needs now is to take the journey upwards. Those two centuries against Zimbabwe have certainly put him on his way!!

If he is selected in the final XI this weekend, it would be the icing on a career which has started rather young, stuttered a bit for production, but may have come to fruition at the correct time. Like no other time in the past, the West Indies batting line-up need personnel, both gifted and determined.

With Chris Gayle, Ricardo Powell and Wavell Hinds joining the batting ranks recently, the young brigade of batsmen have a chance to make names for themselves, and more importantly, enable the West Indian bowlers to do their jobs without the immense pressure they have had recently. The West Indian bowlers need help from the batsmen badly. Let us hope that Ramnaresh Sarwan, along the other recently capped players, understand this need and do their part to help out here!!