Rajan's Wrong 'Un: Test axe for Sarwan would complete an extraordinary decline

Sarwan has a profound anxiety over the whereabouts of his off-stump and the Indians have reduced his confidence to a rubble

"Wishing the guys all the best in Dominica," tweeted Ramnaresh Sarwan this weekend, referring to the third Test of the series between West Indies and India, "Miami here I come". One of the many joys wrought from so many leading cricketers being on Twitter is that you have advanced warning of selectors' thinking. We don't know for certain that Sarwan will be dropped; but as an early steer this could hardly be bettered.

Sarwan was dispirited after his 18 and 8 in the tense, drawn second Test at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. The match has been interpreted in some quarters as a low-scoring, uneventful affair. Yet buried within the action was an exhibition of the diminishing powers of two players who a decade ago promised greatness, but now struggle to warrant their place in the Test side. The first is Sarwan; the second is Harbhajan Singh.

The Guyanese No 3 was dropped for the early part of the recent Pakistan series and, save for a 75 in the final ODI against India, has struggled for form since.

There was something terribly painful watching him reduce his game to only two shots – a squarish drive and the cut – in a bid to regain some fluency, and fail nevertheless. His recent dismissals betray a profound anxiety over the whereabouts of his off-stump, and by pitching full to him, the Indians have reduced his confidence to rubble. His Test average is left hovering fractionally over 40; his captain, Darren Sammy, has offered only lukewarm support, and his place in the team is in jeopardy.

All of which is a long way from the dashing, wristy brilliance of the unbeaten 84 in his first Test innings, against Pakistan in 2000, after which Ted Dexter presented him with a large albatross for the adornment of his neck, by predicting a Test average of over 50. But on his first tour, of England later that year, Sarwan topped the averages with such flair and surety of footwork that Dexter's crime seemed understatement rather than the opposite.

I remember very distinctly the moment on that tour I became convinced he was destined for greatness. Craig White, whose action was by then working well enough for him to surpass 90mph regularly, cracked Sarwan in the ribs with one that snorted off a length. The 20-year-old was floored for five minutes. And then, to White's next delivery, a good length ball just outside off-stump, he played the most flamboyant, assured leave possible, giving full stretch to the rib cage bearing a purple bruise.

Eleven days ago Sarwan turned 31. Harbhajan turned 31 yesterday. His figures were 14-3-31-1 and 19-2-42-1: ineffective. In March 2001, he took 32 wickets in three Tests against Australia – including the first Test hat-trick by an Indian – while none of his team-mates managed more than three. He was then a bowler whose stock ball turned sharply and drifted away from the right-hander, and whose whirligig, open action, which sometimes meant he bowled from beyond the vertical – ie 11 o'clock – induced terror in batsmen.

Now, 95 Tests into his career, he has lost his off-break, the inevitable consequence of his flirtation with the doosra, which led to his action being questioned. He may have 398 Test wickets at 31.9, but he plays so much limited-overs cricket that his strategic nous for the five-day game is gone. He should be sacrificed for the much craftier left-arm of Pragyan Ojha, or any one of three leg-spinners, Piyush Chawla, Rahul Sharma, and Amit Mishra.

Harbhajan is too proud to retire from Tests, though by saving his body he might increase his longevity in other forms of the game. Yet he will never again be the bowler who got Ricky Ponting out five times for under 12 in one series.

For Sarwan, the consolation is that those on the team fringes are capable rather than brilliant. He need not, like the mercurial Carl Hooper, be remembered for failing to fulfil his potential. But who will tell him that salvation lies in the nets, and not in Miami?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam