West Indies v India, 2nd Test, Bridgetown, 5th day July 3, 2011

What's ailing Ramnaresh Sarwan?

Things were looking up at the end of the ODI series but his failure in the two Tests could hurt his future prospects

It's a bad time to be Ramnaresh Sarwan. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) doesn't seem too happy with the seniors and Sarwan's batting form could not have let him down at a worse time. He needs runs. His team needs his runs. A large shadow of pressure is tailing him. He wasn't picked for the initial part of the Pakistan series and hasn't been among the runs since he returned. He raised hopes with a finely-constructed 75 in the final ODI against India but has slipped up again. It remains to be seen if the selectors give him one more chance in the final Test or leave him out.

The fluency has been lacking and the pitches haven't helped. India's bowlers have got him with two types of deliveries: the short-of-length ball that straightens outside off and the one that cuts back in from a fuller length. Two such incutters dismissed him in the first innings of the two Tests and two short-of-length deliveries that held their line saw him off in the second.

His dismissals in the second innings reflect the gap between intent and form. Sarwan tried to hit deliveries on the up and edged behind. It didn't look good. In the radio shows, he was castigated for the "poor shot". His seniority was dragged into the equation. Both shots were overly expansive, and the situation didn't demand them. But one can understand Sarwan's state of mind and the circumstances that might have prompted him to play like that. In both instances, West Indies were chasing and Sarwan perhaps wanted to show intent. And lead by example. They were tempting opportunities to display his prowess. Score quick runs, take the team close to the target, and set the tone - that's what many batsmen at No.3 are supposed to do in a chase. That's what an in-form Sarwan would do. He tried, but failed this series.

Sarwan, throughout his career, has had a tendency to get squared up by the short-of-length delivery straightening around off, but in better times he would manage to push his bat inside the line. In this series, though, every such delivery seems to have his name on it.

Yet, there had been some improvement from some of his earlier performances in the ODI series where he, by his own admission, was struggling for fluency. He had reduced his game to two shots - the square drive and the cut. Slowly, as the series progressed, he improved. In the final game, he gradually began to drive straighter. The cuts and square drives continued, of course, but he showed better shot-selection, adapting to the length.

In this Test series, however, the pressure appears to have got to him. The pitches, too, have played their part. They've had some spice and not allowed Sarwan to go through with those big shots. Perhaps, the time has come for Sarwan to return to grafting, fighting it out in the middle and showing a willingness to look ugly. The first-innings dismissals show it won't be an easy thing to do even if he is in the mood. Both were good deliveries, of course, but it looked all too simple: push Sarwan back with short-of-length deliveries and then slip in a full delivery that nips back in. He fell for the trap on both occasions. Looking ahead, he'll need some luck and plenty of support from his team.

Will that support be forthcoming? Darren Sammy, his captain, gave mixed signals. "Sars is a classy player," Sammy said. "We all know what he is capable of. We all know he is going through a [rough] patch right now. He is one of our more experienced batsmen. We have been supporting him." It sounds like support, but there were also hints of something dire. "At the end of the day the selectors have a job to do," Sammy said. "I don't know whether any changes will be done." Will Sarwan get another chance?

Ian Bishop, the former West Indies fast bowler and currently a commentator, is confident Sarwan has a lot more to offer. He believes that at 31, Sarwan should be at the prime of his career. With a bit of luck and a lot of fight, Sarwan has the ability to turn things around. If he is picked for the final Test in Dominica, he'll have another chance. But given the way things are in West Indies cricket at the moment, who knows when the push can turn into a shove.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • None ya on July 5, 2011, 14:03 GMT

    A man can't bat and it is the WICB's fault. When will some of you wake up and start putting blame on these players. Do you guys realise that all of our senior players are millionaires..still asking for money and STILL NOT PRODUCING. Look at the difference in the two sides Dravid and Laxman stepping up in a young indian side... Sarwan and Chanderpaul? Look no better than the youngsters! Stop BLAMING THE BOARD and START blaming these players who have been jerking us around for years and always begging for more money!

  • Bhanoo on July 5, 2011, 13:26 GMT

    Sars is a failure? 87 tests, avg 40 with 15 centuries, ODI avg 43 with SR 75? Let's see, Desmond Haynes 116 tests, avg 42, 18 centuries, ODI avg 41, SR 63 and he was a great! Larry Gomes, 60 tests, avg 39, 9 centuries, ODI not worth mentioning. Richie Richardson (current batting coach) 86 tests, avg 44, 16 centuries, ODI avg 33, SR 63. Sars ODI batting avg and SR way better than Richie and Gomes and better than Haynes while his test avg is a bit lower than Haynes and Richie and better than Gomes. Centuries per test better than Haynes and Gomes......are these all failures? Vishwanath's 100 against Jumadeen, Inshan Ali and Co is legendary but Sars 100 against McGrath, Lee etc in that 418 chase forgotten. What about his batting against England during the last tour at home when he was the wall throughout when we battled to keep the lead he set up in Jamaica for Taylor? Add to that our best ODI finisher for 10 yrs and he is a failure? No Gibson, Butts, Browne and R Haynes were successes!

  • Abiose on July 5, 2011, 12:48 GMT

    There is a reason why some are administrators and the rest must remain fans. Each player must earn their place in the side by performance and by conduct. What nonsense, as soon as a player gets sacked he gets on a plane and goes on holiday. Who is Gayle to divulge confidential information about board meetings? Why does he feel that whosoever votes against him does not like him? That in itself shows he is not worthy of the captaincy. He has no sense of diplomacy and tactic. Sars flight to miami after the news will demonstrate a lack of commitment to WI cricket. He should come home, hit the GYMN, NETS etc and get himself in best shape and form.... Look at Nintini and Brett Lee as examples of resilliance.

  • R on July 5, 2011, 9:33 GMT

    On current form, sarwan clearly has no place in the team. What needs to be understood is also a question of strategy. If the opening pair is doing well, an attacking no.3 will help. In the present situation, WI needs a grafter at no.3 and should move Chanderpaul up the order. Chanderpaul is not an attacking batsman but can be the sheet anchor who holds one end up.Playing Chanderpaul at no.5 exposes him to the tail quickly and he is not capable of scoring quickly with the tailenders defending. It alll boils down to a question of strategy but the think tank appears to be missing this part.

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2011, 19:36 GMT

    the dark days are upon us, where is the intervention of our caribbean leaders are they not seeing the state of our cricket.

    i think trinidad, jamaica and barbados should pull out from the wicb and try and gain full test and playing status from the icc.

    that's how low our cricket in our region has come. help us pleasssssssssssssse.

  • Sandeep on July 4, 2011, 19:12 GMT

    Its time for Andre Russel.

  • Anand on July 4, 2011, 17:37 GMT

    What is aling Sarwan is West Indies Cricket Board. I agree that he is not playing up to any standard and he(Sarwan) would also agree---but with the WICB, Gibson and Clyde Butts there is no room for getting the groove back into playing top notch cricket because now not only does a crickter has to worry about the Opposition he and Shiv has to be paying attention to WICB, Gibson, Clyde Butts and Sammy---so If I am any of the senior players it is not a place to be-- that is in the WI team---they under attach from Gibson, WICB and Butts combined theyhave not played more than 10 test---and they are in charge and being very vindictive too. So I like Sars comment "Miami here I come"---out of this of sight of the WICB.I expect SC to announce his retirement soon --enough of this nonsense.

  • Tim on July 4, 2011, 17:01 GMT

    Have people forgotten the last 10 years? Yes Sarwan, Shiv and Gayle have looked good at times but West Indies have been terrible for ages. They have now had enough of this old guard and are looking to their youth. Players like Barath, Simmons and Bravo will lead West Indies out of this slump. Sarwan, Chanderpaul and Gayle put them into the slump, why do they get so much support without scoring runs.

  • Ian on July 4, 2011, 16:42 GMT

    Good decision by the selectors. Selfish cricketer unlike Shiv. His batting has been pathetic. Let him go shopping for ear-rings in Miami. Good riddance.

  • Dummy4 on July 4, 2011, 15:29 GMT

    The now the English-washed, former West Indian reject has returned to the Caribbean with a superiority complex to coach a team he was barely able to play something like two test matches for. And we wonder about some of the obvious selection blunders...the comedy of it all ! Can you imagine Duncan Fletcher telling Dravid, Tendulkar or Laxman how to bat in the middle of their innings? Or coaches sending messages to Sangakkara, Jayawardena, Kallis, Ponting, Hussey etc. in the middle of their innings? Was Gibson sending messages to England's bowlers out on the field telling them how to bowl when he was coach? Gibson is a bowling coach and WI bowling has looked better, but he needs to leave matters of batting to those who have done it successfully and actually know something about it.

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