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West Indies cricket

May 15, 2014

Over to 'Captain' Ramdin

Roger Sawh

Ramdin is the best wicketkeeper in West Indies, and he has been and will be for a long time. The issues have almost always rested with his batting. © WICB Media Photo/Randy Brooks

It would not be far-fetched to compare a nation's Test cricket history to a long and elaborate book.

Books are divided into chapters and chapters, on occasion, into headings and sub-headings. All writing is put into paragraphs, and paragraphs into sentences. Every sentence, it may be said, is a statement or a thought. Individually sentences have little influence, but when they are made into paragraphs and subsequently into chapters, and ultimately compiled into a tome, little sentences can make a world of difference.

In a similar vein, an over in cricket or even a spell or a session, might be likened to a sentence. A Test match might be considered to be a paragraph, and a Test series might be a collection of paragraphs under a common heading. What might a chapter be compared to? I suggest an 'era' - an 'era' under a particular regime of leadership, an era of captaincy.

In the book that is West Indies' cricket, it now looks like the chapter titled ' Darren Sammy' is over. An earnest reflection will show that strides have been made even though questions still heavily outnumber the answers. Much will be written of Sammy, the captain, just as much has already been said. For what it's worth, he was not the worst ever, yet he was also far from the best. To engage in a fulsome analysis requires an article in and of itself - I leave that to the sagely hands of Tony Cozier, Ian Bishop or Michael Holding. I wish to peer ahead to the next page.

Denesh Ramdin is the new Test captain of the West Indies. A new leaf has turned. The first I ever heard of Ramdin was when he was the keeper for the World Cup winning West Indies Under-15 team in 2000 - a team in which Ravi Rampaul opened the batting as well as the bowling, and names like Krishmar Santokie, Xavier Marshall, and Assad Fudadin were prominent. It must have been difficult for such young men to envisage themselves in maroon at the highest level. Most players from that tournament seem to have fallen off the international radar. Ramdin, though, is a case of quite the opposite, for he has ascended the ranks from under-15 to under-19 (where he captained West Indies team to the Under-19 World Cup final) to the senior team.

Before discussing Ramdin, the leader; one cannot help but dwell on Ramdin, the player. One of the most vitriolic criticisms towards his predecessor was his reported inability to 'command' a place in a starting XI. Ramdin's place as the wicketkeeper of the squad is currently in no doubt, though it had been tenuous only a few months ago. Challenges from the likes of Carlton Baugh and Devon Thomas, and all the contenders since his first Test in 2005 (just a few months past his 20th birthday), have been more out of frustration with what Ramdin ought to be. Make no mistake - Ramdin is the best wicketkeeper in West Indies, and he has been and will be for a long time. The fault has almost always rested with his batting.

Maybe it's the curse of his era. As masters like Adam Gilchrist and Kumar Sangakkara displayed poetry with willow, the lack of weight in Ramdin's batting average has been magnified. It isn't that he is a bad batsman, it's that he should and could be much better. In a perfect world, Ramdin would be a silky smooth shot maker who could contribute 40-50 runs an innings at No. 5 or 6, occasionally getting a quick hundred or battening down the hatches to consolidate after a top-order collapse. In a perfect world, of course, there would be no wars, no hunger and no poverty. In the real world, Ramdin's Test average after 56 matches is below 30, with 4 centuries and 11 half-centuries. In fact, that average and those conversions might explain why he has played only 56 Tests in a 9-year span.

Taking a closer look, one might forgive Ramdin just a bit - when he arrived on the big stage, there was a vicious battle between the players and the authorities, and although he was captained by Shivnarine Chanderpaul, he would have found woefully little class to cling on to. The culture of losing and the air of dismay that immersed West Indies cricket were in full force, and the introduction of a young player into those circumstances cannot have been easy.

Ramdin's first Test century came in his 33rd Test and by that time he was in his fourth year of Test cricket. His second came 12 Tests later, but it took a further 3 years to attain because in 2010 (when Sammy was first named Test captain) he was dropped to fix his inefficiencies. His return tour to England in 2012, when he made his second ton, has become popular for all the wrong reasons: upon crossing the three-figure mark at Edgbaston, Ramdin revealed a hand-written note directed at Viv Richards - 'Yeh Viv, Talk Nah' it read. It was insulting, though no doubt spurred on by the pressure of that time in exile and the weight of public opinion. It was a sign of some immaturity, and though apologies and regret were forthcoming, the damage had been done. Ramdin, again, was at a crossroads.

To his great credit, it seems as if that incident and its fallout were important for the Trinidadian. He has added two more Test tons since Edgbaston, averaging 45 in 11 Tests. His wicket-keeping has remained efficient and steady, providing surety against the likes of Sunil Narine with his mysterious wiles. He is one of the seniors in the dressing room now, and his captaincy credentials have always been mentioned. He has led Trinidad & Tobago well in all formats after serving as a deputy to Daren Ganga, himself one of the region's best leaders in recent times. 'Captain' Ramdin always seemed to be a matter of when rather than if.

So what does the Ramdin chapter have in store? West Indies has shown signs of improvement in recent years, but there have still been sorry displays, especially overseas. Having been through a lot, Ramdin is now a hardened international cricketer who has seen and done it all. This instalment, the reign of Ramdin, will hopefully feature a fortification of the troops, and their transformation into a more productive and consistent unit. Sammy's tenure was to gel the team into a common force with a common goal; Ramdin's mandate should be to aid in the progress of West Indies cricket from triers to winners.

International cricket is not without its trials and times of difficulty - every player, at some point, will face hard times. The true measure of a player and of a leader is how they overcome and learn from their adversities. For the new captain's sake, and the sake of the West Indies Test team, here's hoping that the chapter of Denesh Ramdin leaves the world talking about all the right things.

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Roger Sawh is a law student and a die-hard West Indies fan. He tweets @sawhoncricket

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Comments have now been closed for this article

Posted by Donna on (May 27, 2014, 14:21 GMT)

Who else is there? I understand he has a cricket brain and that is what we need in West Indies cricket. To progress from "triers" to "winners" critical moments of the game must be seized. As long as he does not treat the Windies team as a hangout spot for all his Trini buddies I don't see why he wouldn't be supported. The "best team" will always be a subjective opinion especially when nobody actually stands out to the extent of a Viv Richards or Malcolm Marshall but if the team is packed with Trinis without the relevant recent stats we will again have discord. We will all go forward or backward together. Or we shall disappear off the radar altogether.

Posted by siddhartha on (May 17, 2014, 16:41 GMT)

Likes of Powell and Edwards have to make huge strides towards consistency. Apart from them Gayle and Samuels need to start scoring big 100s

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 16, 2014, 17:18 GMT)

Yes to be honest the captain for the last few years should have been Ramnaresh Sarwan, but we all know that story, so I dont need to go there. Denesh Ramdin is obviously the next best choice. We here in Trinidad are very happy, but what I wonder is if he will recieve support from players and fans in the other islands, as a Trinidadian and a player of Indian descent

Posted by Clifford on (May 16, 2014, 16:42 GMT)

Article says it wishes to to peer ahead but it was full of nothing but flowery retrospective. Ramdin came into the team when he was 20 or 21 which is young for a wicketkeeper and so the idea that he would make that leap and at the same time maintain an ideal world's 40-50 batting average is a bit silly. Even Dujon averaged below 32 for his career. The Sangas (who hasn't kept in two years as far as I can tell) and Gilchrists of the world make people think that keepers who average 50+ grow on trees. All the bit about his career before being dropped can be completely ignored and the 40+ average in the last two years is what you really need to look at (#4 among all wicketkeepers during that time).

What the WI hope is that he can replicate the success T&T have had in regional cricket without necessarily having the best players.

Posted by Dummy4 on (May 15, 2014, 18:04 GMT)

Denesh Ramdin has always been a player with talent and potential. I first saw him play in a 1st Class match against Guyana. He made a well-crafted 4th innings century for T&T. Since then I have taken him into my list as a potential player for the future. That was in 2004. My list also had AB, KP,DEONARINE, CLARKE,etc. But as we have seen recently, Keeper-Batsmen are the best candidate for captain in the team: Dhoni, Sanga, Bagai, AB, Mushfiqur... So I would welcome this decision by the WI to make Ramdin captain. He is infact the 1st WI keeper to score an ODI century.

Posted by kent on (May 15, 2014, 17:40 GMT)

This is a simple case of accession. It is quite normal and is inevitable at some point in time. Most WI supporters knew that Sammy's appointment was a temporary one. He was never able to command a test spot on his own merit and he was given the job after others refused: Gayle and Bravo. The fact that he occupied the captaincy for so long is more of a surprise than the fact that Ramdin took over. The choice of Ramdin is simple: 1. He is worth his place on the side and is easily the best keeper in WI. 2. He is an experienced player with over 50 tests. 3.He is an astute leader.4. At 29 he is ripe and ready for leadership. 5.The removal of Sammy as captain, makes the selection process of other members easier as there are more options and flexibilty now available. It is time to move on and let the WI deal with the challenges of test cricket with Ramdin at the helm. Nuff said!!

Posted by Ashok on (May 15, 2014, 10:26 GMT)

Let's hope West Indies can turn the corner now- the beginning has been made. Time to convert hard fought defeats into wins.

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