Bring back Sarwan – Ezra Stuart

(Barbados Nation) Class is permanent, form is temporary!

It is really downright disgraceful the way the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the selectors have treated former captain Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Sarwan, not offered a WICB central retainer contract for two consecutive years, has been cast aside and left to seek another source of income in the English county championship, where he has been warmly embraced by Leicestershire.

His century last week when he was asked to captain the county should be a reminder to Clyde Butts, his fellow West Indies selectors and the influential head coach Ottis Gibson that class will always triumph over form in the long run and will stand the test of time.

With the West Indies’ tour of England, which includes three Tests, three One-Day Internationals and a lone T20 starting early next month, one expects that Sarwan will be part of the regional squad.

Now 32 years old, Sarwan, a veteran of 87 Tests in which he has amassed 5 842 runs at an average of 40.11 with 15 Test centuries – five of them versus England – has experience that should not be ignored with the Windies likely to face an English attack spearheaded by James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

It was on the West Indies’ last tour of England that Sarwan made his last Test century, an even hundred at Durham’s Riverside ground.

He has failed to reach 50 in his last six Tests but all good batsmen go through such a bad patch.

I’ve always felt that Sarwan was given a raw deal when he was not reappointed as West Indies captain in 2007 after recovering from injury in England and Chris Gayle was preferred.

Sarwan has not done his cause much good with a lean 2011, followed by injury and a subsequent spat with the Guyana Cricket Board.

But having witnessed some of his best knocks, like his career-best 291 versus England at Kensington Oval in 2009 when he also scored 107 at Sabina Park in the Jamaica Test, followed by 94 and 106 at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG), I still think a player of Sarwan’s calibre can only boost this revitalized Windies unit.

Who can forget his courageous second innings century in the West Indies’ record-breaking run chase of 418 against Australia at the ARG in 2003 against the intimidating Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie when Stuart MacGill was preferred to Shane Warne.

I get the feeling that Gibson wants to mould a team of choir boys, who must sing in key to his tune, to stay in his band even if they don’t have the voice to hit the big notes and get the fans to jump and wave like a Chris Gayle.

Yet, with Kirk Edwards injured, it is really hard to imagine an underperforming Kieran Powell, who was included in the Test squad from the start of the series, despite enduring a poor 2012 regional first-class tournament, batting at No. 3 in a West Indies side. Maybe he will justify his inclusion in the ongoing Dominica Test.

Did the selectors have a chat with Sarwan or even Brendan Nash while they participated in this year’s Regional Four-Day Tournament about their future as West Indies cricketers or is it the end of the road for both?

Perhaps the fact that both have signed county contracts is either an indication that they want to show the selectors what they are capable of doing in English conditions ahead of the Test series or that they have realized they are not in the selectors’ immediate plans.

Nash, 34, failed in the two Tests against Pakistan and first against India, and was promptly dropped. But having scored 381 runs at an average of 63.50 – thrice that of Powell – with a tournament-high 205 not out, he is deserving of a recall. His two hundreds and eight half-centuries in 21 Tests at an average of 33.42, should count for something especially since the likes of Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels – and, yes, Kieron Pollard – are playing in the Indian Premier League.

One expects that Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul and Sammy will be the first-choice quartet for the England tour.

In terms of a fifth fast bowler, there are a number of contenders, but Tino Best, who bowled impressively in the warm-up games during the pre-series camp, taking six West Indies top-order batsmen in one innings at the 3Ws Oval, should still get the nod despite not at his best in the final against Jamaica.

Trinidadian Shannon Gabriel (24 wickets at 25.62), Andrew Richardson (26 wickets at 17.92) in the Regional Four-Day Competition will come into the reckoning. Tall Barbadian fast bowling all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite could be a dark horse once Andre Russell is ruled out.

With Gayle still unavailable because of his IPL commitments and Lendl Simmons, who experienced difficulty against the moving ball on the last tour of England, recuperating from injury, both Adrian Barath and Kraigg Brathwaite, who also had a tough time on the “A” Team tour on his last England trip, will probably retain their places, but I think the time has come to convert Sarwan into an opening batsman.

Also, with Carlton Baugh still not scoring any runs of note and also missing some vital chances even though he has acquitted himself well at times, Denesh Ramdin would be my first choice as wicketkeeper once he passes a fitness Test, as none of the young wicketkeepers have boosted their chances, either in front or behind the stumps.

MY ENGLAND SQUAD: Adrian Barath, Kraigg Brathwaite, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Kirk Edwards, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin, Darren Sammy, Kemar Roach, Ravi Rampaul, Fidel Edwards, Shane Shillingford, Tino Best, Devendra Bishoo/Brendan Nash.

Dark horse: Carlos Brathwaite.


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