Full of fight and talent

Ramnaresh Sarwan's spirit shone the brightest as he bared his soul for his country. — Pic. AFP-

RAMNARESH SARWAN, a delightful little player with twinkling footwork and rapier-like strokes, can be soothing to the senses. Much like the breeze sweeping across the shores in the Caribbean.

He can be courageous too. Unfazed by pain, undaunted by the opposition. He's a tough young lad, this Sarwan. West Indies' vital group B game against Sri Lankans was on a boil. The Caribbeans indeed had a job on hand. Chasing 229 at Newlands was never going to be easy.

The side lost Wavell Hinds and Brian Lara early, both falling to left-arm paceman Chaminda Vaas. Worse was to follow. Sarwan, timing his strokes well, was felled by a nasty short-pitched delivery from Dilhara Fernando. The ball crashed into his helmet and Sarwan suffered a cut above his left ear. The Guyanese was rushed to a Cape Town hospital, where he received stitches to close the gash. Not many gave him a chance to figure again in the contest.

They were wrong. The West Indies required 60 more with just three wickets remaining when Sarwan returned straight from the hospital and in he walked, into the arena.

It was a night when Sarwan bared his soul for the West Indies. He had felt groggy when led off the field not too long ago. Now, he was back in the middle, the maroon cap taking the place of helmet.

The lights may have been bright, yet it was Sarwan's spirit that shone the brightest. The Caribbeans faced a `must-win' situation, and this brave batsman would need to play an innings of sheer blood and guts.

He did just that, launching into the Lankan attack, striking the ball cleanly, and picking his spots on the field, like he so often does. The Sri Lankans, who had sighted a victory only moments ago, were now rattled.

Yet, in the end, it was a tragic tale, at least from a West Indian perspective. Sarwan, in an inspired mood, was unbeaten on 47, when the Caribbeans ended up six runs short, one wicket in hand.

One of the most courageous innings in World Cup history would go unrewarded. However, Sarwan had ensured that the effort would stay in several hearts and minds.

It was a competition where he clearly made an impact in the West Indian middle-order, and his wonderful cameo (unbeaten 32) at the end of the innings, did make a difference in the lung-opener against the Proteas at Newlands.

And at Port Elizabeth, where the West Indians came up short, chasing New Zealand's 241, it was Sarwan who kept the Caribbean hopes alive for long, with a sparkling 75, dotted with cuts, drives and flicks; he gets into position so quickly, and does have time to essay his strokes.

The West Indians promised much in the tournament, however, two collapses on the chase, against New Zealand and Sri Lanka, and the washed out game that saw Bangladesh picking up its only two points saw them being eliminated before the Super Sixes.

A pity really, since there was so much potential in these Maroon charmers.

A pity too that we could not see more of Ramnaresh Sarwan, a cricketer with both fight and talent. Four years from now, the West Indians and Sarwan would be waiting in the Caribbean. — S. Dinakar