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Ramnaresh Sarwan wins case against WICB over comments made on fitness

Ramnaresh Sarwan
(Photo Source: Getty Images)

Ramnaresh Sarwan has successfully sued West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) over comments made about his fitness. The former West Indian batsman has been awarded US Dollars 1,61,000 in damages by the arbitration. The verdict was delivered earlier in March 2016 but the details of the ruling have only revealed in the last week.

Sarwan, who was once an important part of the West Indian team hasn’t played since 2011, had lodged the appeal against West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) in March 2011 for unfairly questioning in public his fitness and attitude. This, he said, effectively cost him not only a central contract for the 2010-11 seasons but also damaged his “reputation as a professional cricketer” and “sullied his career as an international cricketer.”

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According to Cricinfo, accepting Sarwan’s claim that he had suffered “loss and damage”, the arbitrator, Seenath Jairam, concluded that the batsman had been “denigrated” because the selection processes of the WICB were not transparent and the board had committed various breaches of their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the player.

The WICB called the verdict a “highly flawed ruling by the arbitrator.” A release issued on the board’s Facebook page stated it was treating the matter as “closed”. Earlier Sarwan, who had a successful county season with Leicestershire even as West Indies were being beaten on their England tour, had said how he had been “mentally broken down by certain individuals”, while blaming the coaching set-up for his non-selection.

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The problems started when Ernest Hilaire, the WICB chief executive, sent a brief communiqué to Sarwan on January 11, 2010, immediately after West Indies’ Test series in Australia. Sarwan had played the final two Tests of the three-match series with injury, which he suffered on the eve of the first Test. Hilaire told Sarwan the WICB had done a review of the tour and was concerned about his “attitude and approach to fitness and physical preparation.”

“While this letter is not intended to highlight specific incidents, we hope that you take our concern as a statement of our desire for a higher level of commitment and application from you as a contracted player and a member of the West Indies cricket team,” Hilaire had said.

Sarwan called up Hilaire for clarification, and in his testimony during the arbitration, Sarwan mentioned Hilaire had not been forthcoming. “Dr. Hilaire still refused to let Mr. Sarwan know what he meant by his words in his letter and, further, stated that ‘if I don’t change my attitude, my career would end’, and then he hung up the phone,” noted Jairam in his final judgement. Hiliare, who did not testify during the arbitration, denied that Sarwan was “threatened” in any way, as was reported during the hearing.

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“Mr. Sarwan had a telephone conversation with Dr. Hilaire relating to the letter. Mr. Sarwan, in that telephone conversation, contested that he was unfit and argued that the team physiotherapist and fitness trainer did not like him,” the WICB said. Sarwan noted the indifference of the West Indies team management during the Australian tour when at one stage he was denied an MRI scan; he eventually had it done, with the charges being borne by Cricket Australia.

Then, during the home series against South Africa in 2010, Sarwan picked up a hamstring injury but was told by West Indies coach Ottis Gibson that he was not in charge of the matter and the physio was the best man to deal with it. Sarwan sponsored his own trips to Florida and later Canada to get treatment.

When the WICB issued fresh contracts for the 2010-11 season, Sarwan was not given one. He was told by Clyde Butts, the chairman of selectors, that he did not get a contract “due to concerns about his approach and attitude to fitness, which resulted in the frequency of injuries sustained.”

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Sarwan said he was astounded as no one, including Butts, had ever raised any issue about his fitness or attitude in person in the past. While delivering the verdict, Jairam said he was not in any doubt that the WICB had treated Sarwan unfairly, and that the board’s selection process and the appraisal procedure were far from transparent.

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