Poignant Power: West Indies cricket

The West Indies cricket team didn't make it past the first round of the 2003 World Cup, but their crucial match against Sri Lanka produced one moment of extraordinary courage. Vaneisa Baksh applauds the young hero Ramnaresh Sarwan

  • Ramnaresh Sarwan is welcomed by Sri Lanka bowler Muttiah Muralitharam, as wicketkeeper Kumar Sangakara jogs away. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

World Cup 2003 in South Africa was all theatre. Unwavering titans crushing all comers; epic battles fought by underdogs; unknown heroes sprinting forward to hoist falling flags; every dramatic element coalesced in the preliminary round. Two hat-tricks; Canadian records for the fastest 100 and the lowest score; Kenya, a non-Test team, making it to the Super Sixes, while big names like hosts South Africa, England, and Pakistan couldn’t.

The West Indies team opened the tournament with such a spectacular win against South Africa that fans dared to hope once more. It came down to the crucial game against Sri Lanka on February 28, when six runs more would have unlocked the door. But it was not to be. Yet, despite the crash, we were compelled to salute the courage of a young batsman from Wakenaam Island on Guyana’s Essequibo: Ramnaresh “Ronnie” Sarwan.

After scoring 10 runs, Sarwan was hit on the head by a steeply lifting ball delivered by Sri Lanka’s Dilhara Fernando, a blow that left him motionless on the field, before he was rushed to Claremont Hospital. Several x-rays and two stitches later, he returned to find the team six wickets down, with Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Vasbert Drakes struggling.

When Chanderpaul got out at 65, Sarwan put on his cap, leaving his helmet aside, and strode out to the pitch, to a resounding ovation from the crowd of 20,000. With 60 runs needed from 47 balls, with only three fast bowlers left to bat, it required determination, skill, a cool head, and a miracle. Sarwan took three of those on to the field. Two brilliant sixes, two defiant fours, and he’d added 37 off 19 balls, tension turning into a palpable spectator at the prospect he’d raised.

“When I saw what was happening, I had to come to the crease,” he said later. “Cricket is about heart. There’ll be occasions when you’re struck down by someone or something, but you have to be man enough to fight to the bitter end.”

That we lost by six runs will forever be submerged under the grandeur and bravery of his effort, and for his heart and his head, we celebrate Ramnaresh Sarwan. His was a World Cup moment any team would have been proud to call its own.


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