Ramnaresh Sarwan: a soft-spoken star

At home with his parents in Guyana, he’s just Ronnie. But put him on a cricket pitch and Ramnaresh Sarwan is a star

Ramnaresh Sarwan cuts for runs during his innings of 35 vs Sri Lanka at the Queen`s Park Oval, Trinidad. April 2008. Photograph Iossjr

Recently he’s adopted an imaginary bow-and-arrow, Usain Bolt-style celebration whenever he scores a century. But the gesture seems somewhat out of character for Ramnaresh Sarwan (“Ronnie” or “Sars” to his family, friends, fans and teammates). He’s known as a humble and dedicated West Indian cricketer who is intent on doing his part to take the team back to the top of the cricketing world.

Born to Kishan and Kumari Sarwan in Guyana on June 23, 1980, on the 17-square-mile island of Wakenaam in the mouth of the Essequibo River, Sarwan is the eldest of three children. His dad says little Ronnie would often end up in the trench in front of their house when he ran after balls, which he would hit with a “beater” (a wooden instrument for washing clothes, traditionally used by country people), or a bat made out of a coconut branch.

But his real start in cricket, Sarwan says, came at 11, when he scored a hundred for his Georgetown primary school’s under-12 team in his very first game, a sign of things to come.

Next it was on to the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC). Carl Hooper provided him with early inspiration, saying to him in the nets, “You will be playing Test cricket one day.” Sarwan admired Hooper, little knowing that one day they would be at the wicket together batting for the West Indies.

At 15, still at school, he became the youngest player ever to represent a West Indian country, against Barbados. Although he did not bat in the rain-affected game, he took his first wicket, that of Philo Wallace, bowling leg spin, which he now occasionally tosses up for the West Indies. Comparisons with fellow Guyanese batting legend Rohan Kanhai, also in his early years, were particularly encouraging.

Among highlights on the field of play he rates his 47 not out in a futile attempt at Capetown, South Africa, in the 2003 World Cup, as most memorable. He returned to bat “after being hit on the head at ten, going off [on] a stretcher to the hospital, getting stitched up and returning to a standing and touching ovation from the 20,000 or so crowd”. The West Indies, however, fell seven runs short of victory.

Sarwan rates as his most valuable innings his 49 not out as skipper of Guyana in the 2006 final of the Stanford Twenty20 in Antigua, with one ball remaining; his 105 in the epic Test versus Australia that saw the West Indies successfully chasing 418 in the second innings in Antigua in May 2003; and his 83 not out in an ODI versus India, before a packed stadium in India in November 2002, when he hit the winning four to seal a West Indies victory off the last ball of the match.

Earlier this year, in the five-match series in the West Indies against England, the right-handed Sarwan amassed 626 runs, hitting three centuries, including a career-best 291, as West Indies regained the coveted Wisden trophy with a 1-0 series win.
On the field he may be a star, but otherwise Ronnie Sarwan’s life hasn’t changed a lot. He co-owns a popular sports bar and restaurant in Toronto, named Windies, but still lives with his parents at the family home in Eccles. He likes to travel regularly to Miami, where “I can get away from it all and enjoy some much needed peace and quiet”.

 

Career highlights

Major teams: West Indies, Gloucestershire, Guyana, Kings XI Punjab, Stanford Superstars, Guyana Cricket Club
• 1994: at 15, selected to senior Guyana squad (youngest ever to represent a West Indian country)
• 2000: begins Test career with 84 not out vs Pakistan at Kensington, Barbados (the tenth teenager to represent the West Indies); began ODI career vs England at Nottingham, England
• 2003: appointed vice captain to Brian Lara
• 2005: plays for Gloucester in the English county league
• 2006: under his captaincy, Guyana wins the US$million team prize in Stanford Twenty20 competition
on his birthday, June 23, smashes six fours in an over in the third Test vs India at Warner Park, St Kitts
• 2007: appointed captain following Brian Lara’s resignation after the World Cup
Twenty20 international debut vs South Africa at Johannesburg
signed by Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League
wins US$1million as a member of the Stanford Superstars in the Twenty20 extravaganza vs England in Antigua
• 2009: becomes the youngest West Indies player to score 5,000 Test runs during his innings of 107 in the innings defeat of England in Jamaica

For updated statistics visit: http://content.cricinfo.com/westindies/content/player/52969.html