By Orin Davidson
According to chairman of the West Indies selectors Clyde Butts, a new phase of West indies cricket is about to begin.
But if the pathetic handling of the Ramnaresh Sarwan fitness issue is the start, nothing less than the invoking of Sir Frank Worrell’s powers of common sense and professionalism, is required to save the regional game from continued chaos.
Sarwan was inexplicably axed from the touring squad to Sri Lanka and the excuse provided was symptomatic of an organization still steeped in acute ineptness.
Butts explained on Sunday that Sarwan’s “fitness problems and record of injuries” prevented his selection in the 15-man touring party.
But it was a statement regurgitated from more than six months prior when the WICB said it wrote Sarwan about his supposed indifference to maintaining adequate fitness.
However, between that time and now, Sarwan has played four competitions injury-free and was reportedly commended by team head coach Otis Gibson for his work in physical training sessions during the recent South Africa series.
Beginning with the West Indies Twenty20 championship, Sarwan lasted the 10 days of the competition captaining Guyana without breaking down.
Then he underwent an intense training camp with the rest of the team lasting more than four weeks in preparation for the Airtel Champions League and did not breakdown.
On to the Champions League, Sarwan continued to play freely, lasting the entire series up to Guyana’s elimination, was the team’s best batsman, climaxing his campaign with a blistering 46-ball 76, while not breaking down.
Almost immediately, the player competed in the Guyana Cricket Board’s Inter County competition, captaining Demerara.
He played every match except the final when an overseas commitment caused him to miss that game.
Again he did not breakdown.
He next flew to Jamaica, and up to the announcement of his shocking exclusion for the Sri Lanka tour, was still going strong.
Thus, how could anyone justify this player as still not being fit for a short three-test series?
And don’t let anyone be fooled by the argument that Sarwan has not proven his fitness in the longer form of the game as it has been proven that limited overs cricket, over a sustained period, is more likely to affect the wear and tear on the body.
The point is that Sarwan is the least likely type of player to suffer as he is a batsman and not a fast bowler.
Butts made it clear that Sarwan’s batting form was not at issue, so his fitness excuse sounds as dubious as the board’s frequent defences for its unending blunders.
Was Sarwan given a fitness test after the body of work he put out in the period, before pronouncing him still unfit?
Obviously not, as the chief selector never mentioned such in his Kaieteur News interview on Sunday.
Again there is no justification for such action by the selectors which is nothing short of disgraceful treatment meted out to a proven senior player in the West Indies.
With more than 4000 runs at test level at an average of 41, Sarwan is the most accomplished of the West Indies batsmen outside of Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Thus you have to wonder if the selectors are serious about success in Sri Lanka by ignoring one of their better players.
In so doing, the Board through its selectors, has opened itself to serious accusations by fans, which on top of its constant misjudgments, would qualify for the title of worse run cricket body of the decade.
Did the WICB not think about being categorized as vindictive by Sarwan’s supporters, given the player’s close association with the West Indies Players Association (WIPA), by its latest action?
Sarwan is not perfect on or off the field, but neither are many of the players selected for this Sri Lanka tour, and others given retainer contracts.
If it is a case of a disciplinary measure, then the WICB must do the right thing by making a public announcement.
Any serious, self respecting national governing sports body would not be afraid to come clean with fans by stating exactly the nature of the offence and the penalty issued.
If the WICB feels Sarwan should be punished by disbarring him from the West Indies team, then it should say for how long.
Such is the case with Lendl Simmons, whom it is claimed is paying the price for indiscipline.
He is being given the silent treatment, not being selected in any West Indies or A teams, or given any contracts, for infractions not spelt out to the player.
How does the WICB expect to develop the game by having players guessing on their status after being blacklisted?
They cannot go on playing at lower levels for indefinite periods.
In Sarwan’s case, denying him a retainer contract is as harsh enough a penalty for any shortcoming on fitness, highlighted several months ago.
The Board added insult to injury by ignoring him for two series now, as he was clearly ready to compete against South Africa.
Not in the European soccer football leagues, the NFL, NBA or MLB, are key players punished for as long as Sarwan has been for fitness issues.
Fans are increasingly getting fed up of the WICB’s obtuse, unprofessional way in handling the sport.
If the dwindling crowd support at Regional and International matches are not cause enough for the Julian Hunte-administration to wake up and smell the coffee, they are now fanning the flames for more injurious reactions from the disgruntled.
That time may well come when the WICB’s next foolish act is perpetrated on Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard.
On another note, the Guyana Cricket Board ought to be warned by the destruction wrought on the team by Bajan paceman Tino Best at Sabina Park in their most humiliating defeat in Regional 50 overs competition Sunday.
If the GCB does not get the message now on the urgency for the replacement of the lifeless pitches at key grounds around the country, as advocated recently in this space, it will finish a close second to its parent body for ineffectiveness.