Notes from a small island
A weblog by Jonathan Ali

Tuesday, April 01, 2003  

The big sports story of the past couple of days has been the re-appointment of Brian Lara as West Indies cricket captain. I have no opinion on the matter either way, really. I wish Lara the best in what at the best of times is a tough job; I hope his batting doesn't suffer as a result of his new responsibilities. (How could it get any worse, I hear some of you say.)

What has interested me however is the appointment of the 22 year old Guyanese batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan as vice-captain. For the first time ever, I believe, the West Indies have made an official vice-captaincy appointment: a clear signal that Sarwan has been earmarked for the captaincy in a few years' time.

Sarwan's playing abilities have never been in doubt. He is a prodigiously, precociously talented cricketer; he has also shown the mental discipline needed to shape his talents in order to succeed at cricket's top level. Whether he has the leadership skills to be a good captain remains to be seen, but what it seems he does have, in abundance, is the one thing that no amount of skill and talent (which are of course necessary) can replace: passion.

The clearest example of this passion - and which, I believe, would have tipped the selectors' hand in favour of Sarwan's appointment - came in the recent World Cup when he was hit by the ball on his head while batting against Sri Lanka and knocked down, maybe even momentarily knocked unconscious. He was taken for a brain scan, which showed no damage, and returned to the match, coming out to bat not with a helmet on, but a cap. Victory was almost salvaged from what seemed a hopeless situation; in the end the West Indies lost by six runs, Sarwan not out on 47 from 44 balls.

I'd like to think that Sarwan's actions that day reflected not simply his passion for the game of cricket, or his sense of duty, but something greater, something that feeds my love for this colonial pastime of wooden sticks and a leather ball and men running about a field more than anything else. And that is the idea of a single Caribbean nation.

Cricket in the Caribbean has of course always gone beyond a boundary. With our colonial past, where (as Naipaul wrote) there were never any heroes and no one was accorded dignity, the cricketer was more than a man, cricket more than a game, and the West Indies more than a sports team. In many ways that hasn't changed, and neither has the dream of a united Caribbean, which I genuinely believe is more than simply desirable, but necessary. The West Indies cricket team, the most successful example of our generally shoddy attempts at Caribbean integration can be key to this unity, if only we would drop the petty rivalries and insularities and squabbling. Our cricketers can help lead where our politicians and so-called elites have failed us.

I don't know if any of this is in the mind of Ramnaresh Sarwan. Or even if he accords the game the same importance that I give it. I hope he does, though. Whatever happens, I wish him the best in his future. For now, I wish him the best in the upcoming series against Australia; a century or two or three against Steve Waugh's men would do just nicely.

posted by Jonathan | 11:09 PM 0 comments


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