When Ramnaresh Sarwan scored an unbeaten 84 on Test debut against a Pakistan attack that included Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq, many experts were moved to suggest that he would be the next big thing in West Indies batting; Ted Dexter predicted a Test average of more than 50. Over a career that lasted over a decade, Sarwan did extremely well for himself, scoring nearly 12,000 international runs with 20 hundreds, but it is impossible to escape the feeling that West Indies didn't get the full value of Sarwan's capabilities. Especially as a Test batsman, where he finished with a career average of 40.01, a good 20% short of where Dexter predicted he would end up.
As a Test batsman Sarwan clearly had his moments: his fourth-innings 105 in Antigua helped chase down a record target of 418; his 291 against England in 2009 remains the seventh-highest Test score by a West Indian, and equals Viv Richards' highest as well; in the same series he also made two other hundreds - 107 in a win in Kingston, and 106 in Antigua - becoming only the fourth West Indies batsman since 1980 to score three hundreds in a Test series.
These, and a few other memorable moments, couldn't hide a tendency to be inconsistent and an inability to string together strong performances. Of the 11 years he played Test cricket, only twice did his average in a calendar year go beyond 50 - in 2004 and 2009 - while seven times it stayed below 40. Of the 31 series in which he played more than one Test, only seven times did he average more than 50, while 12 times he averaged less than 30, and 16 times less than 35. His numbers against specific opposition teams were similarly patchy: he averaged 19.12 from 16 innings in Australia and 17.20 in New Zealand, but 49 in South Africa and 53 in Sri Lanka. (Click here for Sarwan's career summary in Tests.)
For a batsman of such skill, it is surprising that the last time his Test average topped 45 was after his fifth Test, when he averaged 45.66. That was followed the a horror tour of Australia in 2000-01 when he scored 54 runs in six innings, which sent his career average plummeting into the 20s. It improved gradually thereafter, but never touched the heights it was initially expected to. The fact that he played his last Test at the age of 31 - an age when batsmen are usually at their prime - is further evidence of unrealised potential. Among the 15 West Indies batsmen who have scored 4000-plus Test runs, Sarwan's average sits second from bottom, with only fellow Guyanese Carl Hooper - another batsman who massively underachieved in Tests - being the only one with a poorer average. Among the 29 batsmen who scored 5000-plus Test runs between 2000 and 2011 - the period of Sarwan's Test career - his average is the lowest.
West Indies batsmen with 4000+ Test runs
Player Mat Runs Average 100s 50s
 Carl Hooper  102  5762  36.46  13  27
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  87  5842  40.01  15  31
 Chris Gayle  103  7214  42.18  15  37
 Desmond Haynes  116  7487  42.29  18  39
 Roy Fredericks  59  4334  42.49  8  26
 Richie Richardson  86  5949  44.39  16  27
 Alvin Kallicharran  66  4399  44.43  12  21
 Gordon Greenidge  108  7558  44.72  19  34
 Clive Lloyd  110  7515  46.67  19  39
 Rohan Kanhai  79  6227  47.53  15  28
 Viv Richards  121  8540  50.23  24  45
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  164  11867  51.37  30  66
 Brian Lara  130  11912  53.17  34  48
 Garry Sobers  93  8032  57.78  26  30
 Everton Weekes  48  4455  58.61  15  19
Lowest Test averages between 2000 and 2011 (Min 5000 runs)
Batsman Mat Runs Average 100s 50s
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  87  5842  40.01  15  31
 Chris Gayle  91  6373  41.65  13  33
 Andrew Strauss  89  6340  41.98  19  25
 Michael Vaughan  80  5631  42.02  18  18
 Marcus Trescothick  76  5825  43.79  14  29
 Herschelle Gibbs  73  5198  44.05  12  23
In ODIs, though, Sarwan finished with highly impressive numbers, averaging a healthy 42.67 from 181 games, at a strike rate of more than 75. While most top-order batsmen tend to have higher averages in Tests than in ODIs, for Sarwan it has worked the other way. For most of the 2000s, he was a mainstay in the West Indian batting line-up, consistently scoring runs from Nos. 3 or 4: between 2001 and 2011, he was West Indies' third-highest run-getter in ODIs with 5624, an at average of 43.59; only Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul scored more runs. During that period, he was also joint second for West Indies in terms of Man-of-the-Match awards with 12, next only to Gayle's 20.
If Sarwan's Test numbers are slightly underwhelming, his stats in ODIs compare favourably with West Indies' best. Viv Richards is obviously far ahead of anyone else because of the era in which he achieved a strike rate of 90, but among the 15 batsmen with 2500-plus ODI runs Sarwan's career average of 42.67 is third highest, next only to Richards and Gordon Greenidge.
West Indies batsmen with 2500+ ODI runs
Player Mat Runs Average SR 100 50
 Viv Richards  187  6721  47.00  90.20  11  45
 Gordon Greenidge  128  5134  45.03  64.92  11  31
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  181  5804  42.67  75.74  5  38
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  268  8778  41.60  70.74  11  59
 Desmond Haynes  238  8648  41.37  63.09  17  57
 Brian Lara  295  10348  40.90  79.62  19  62
 Chris Gayle  266  9166  37.56  85.06  22  46
 Carl Hooper  227  5761  35.34  76.63  7  29
 Marlon Samuels  184  5064  34.21  75.96  10  27
 Richie Richardson  224  6248  33.41  63.74  5  44
 Darren Bravo  91  2505  32.11  70.12  3  16
 Augustine Logie  158  2809  28.95  73.90  1  14
 Phil Simmons  143  3675  28.93  67.96  5  18
 Wavell Hinds  119  2880  28.51  65.55  5  14
 Dwayne Bravo  164  2968  25.36  82.30  2  10
Unlike in Tests, where Sarwan shone in spurts, in ODIs there were long periods when he performed consistently. Between 2002 and 2008 his numbers compared favourably with the best during that period: among the batsmen with 4000-plus runs during this period, his average of 44.85 was sixth, but it was less than two runs shy of Jacques Kallis' top-of-the-table average of 46.60. Ten of his 12 match awards came during this period.
Best ODI averages between Jan 2002 and Dec 2008 (Min 4000 runs)
Player ODIs Runs Average SR 100s 50s
 Jacques Kallis  148  5173  46.60  74.33  9  37
 Matthew Hayden  134  5345  45.68  80.33  9  29
 Mohammad Yousuf  180  6444  45.38  79.36  12  45
 Shivnarine Chanderpaul  132  4626  45.35  72.93  7  33
 Sachin Tendulkar  139  5619  45.31  83.54  11  37
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  128  4306  44.85  76.89  3  29
 Ricky Ponting  178  6567  44.07  84.35  18  38
Seventy-nine times in his ODI career Sarwan finished on the winning team, and in those games he averaged 62.06, which is marginally higher than Lara's 61.82 in 139 wins. Among the 84 batsmen who have scored 2500-plus runs in ODI wins, only five - MS Dhoni, Hashim Amla, Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Michael Bevan - have averaged more.
Best ODI averages in wins (Min 2500 runs)
Player ODIs Runs Average SR 100s 50s
 MS Dhoni  153  5264  73.11  98.30  6  36
 Hashim Amla  84  5129  68.38  91.27  21  24
 Virat Kohli  99  4995  67.50  93.57  21  19
 AB de Villiers  127  6099  66.29  106.23  20  34
 Michael Bevan  155  4502  65.24  75.65  5  32
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  79  2917  62.06  80.49  4  18
 Brian Lara  139  6553  61.82  86.32  16  42
 Martin Crowe  61  2694  59.86  79.02  4  21
Sarwan mostly batted at Nos. 3 and 4 in ODIs, but he achieved far more success at two-down, averaging 54.21 and scoring four of his five ODI hundreds in 55 innings at that slot. He batted 82 times at No. 3 but never scored a century from that position. His numbers at four are terrific. Among the 31 batsmen who have scored 2000-plus runs at that slot, only Bevan (59.60) has a higher average.
At his best Sarwan combined efficient technique with elegant strokeplay all round the wicket, but unfortunately for West Indies cricket, he faded away far too early. A few more years of an in-form Sarwan would have been perfect for a line-up that has struggled to find its feet over the last few years.
Best ODI averages at No. 4 (Min 2000 runs)
Player Inngs Runs Average SR 100s 50s
 Michael Bevan  53  2265  59.60  69.54  3  17
 Ramnaresh Sarwan  55  2223  54.21  77.21  4  12
 AB de Villiers  110  5118  53.31  96.51  14  28
 Viv Richards  81  3373  48.88  94.56  5  26
 Ross Taylor  119  4790  48.38  82.52  13  27
 Michael Clarke  111  4223  46.40  76.92  5  32
 Jacques Kallis  76  2710  45.93  72.26  2  21
 Mohammad Yousuf  121  4421  43.77  73.69  7  31

S Rajesh is stats editor of ESPNcricinfo. Follow him on Twitter