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February 25, 2013
Ramnaresh Sarwan, in his first show of form since his return to the West Indies team, set up victory in the second ODI against Zimbabwe on Sunday, and his effort pleased stand-in captain Dwayne Bravo. The innings, Bravo said, showed that Sarwan "wants to perform".
Sarwan moved up the order in the game, opening in place of the injured Johnson Charles, and went on to make an unbeaten century that helped the hosts chase down 274 with seven wickets and an over to spare. This decision was taken with a view to afford Sarwan more time in the middle, Bravo said: "Since he returned [after a contentious 18-month absence] in Australia and in the first game here, Ramnaresh Sarwan didn't get to bat long. He asked the selectors if he could come here early and play the practice game, so he wants that opportunity to score, he wants to perform. So it was a decision by the management, and we asked Sarwan if he wanted the opportunity [to open] and he said 'yeah'.
"His record speaks for itself in the one-day format and even in the longer form. It was good that once he got his hundred he stayed till the end; once Sarwan bats like that, we're always going to win."
Sarwan had a poor start on comeback, scoring 19 runs in four one-dayers before this. Getting big-name players like Sarwan to perform at optimum level, Bravo said, was "all about enjoyment". "You can see he's happy, he's relaxed now. Once you have players of Sarwan's class in the side, the best thing to do is to create the right atmosphere for them, to make them feel comfortable, make them feel happy, like they belong, and they will go out and perform.
"That's one of the things I asked the management for, to allow the senior players - the Sarwans, the Pollards and even if Chris [Gayle, who did not play the first two ODIs] comes back - to allow them to be themselves and express themselves. West Indies cricket will only benefit then."
Bravo also enjoyed personal success in the match, securing career-best figures of 6 for 43. Talking about his spell, he said: "On the pitch today I had to try a few things and my variations worked. Though I wouldn't say I'm back to my best bowling form; I still have a lot to do. The six wickets will help getting my confidence back, I can push on from here.
"Hopefully no injuries to hamper me, that's one of my main concerns. I hope I can keep myself on the park so I can continue to put in some good all-round performances."
Bravo said he was as yet not sure what changes would be made to the West Indies squad for the final ODI, and whether full-time captain Darren Sammy - who was rested for the first two matches - would return. As long as he was in charge, he said, he would look to maintain an attacking mindset.
"I'm a firm believer in wickets, wickets change games. I'm an attacking captain. I try to think like the batsman - what his strengths are, where he's looking to score, where he's not likely to score, who he wouldn't want to face and bring that bowler on.
"Today [Sunil] Narine had a go at me for attacking too much for him. But I believe he's my trump card, [so I set attacking fields for him, as a result of which] today I think was the first time he went for over 50 runs in international cricket, but I believe in him and I'll always attack for him. I always tell the guys I'd rather bowl ten overs and take 3 for 60 than none for 20."
Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor, was happy that his side competed better after being thrashed in the first ODI by 156 runs. "Definitely the guys put their hands up and fought harder today," he said. "We have to give credit to Sarwan for his innings. Losing myself and Vusi [Sibanda] up front probably set us back by 20 to 30 runs, otherwise we could have scored more than 300. [Tendai] Chatara can show some pride in his performance, but there's still room for improvement. [Natsai] Mushangwe bowled in tough situations, and to go for just over 40 was excellent. There's a lot of cricket left, and we'll be looking to do our country proud."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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A collection of fine cricket writing on great cricket feats, and never mind the omissions
Plays of the Day from the first ODI between South Africa and India in Johannesburg