Former West Indies batsman, Ramnaresh Sarwan, will not serve as an assistant coach for the Jamaica Tallawahs in this year’s edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) after being given leave to return home.

The entirety of this season’s tournament will take place on the island of Trinidad and Tobago as organisers, like many around the globe, operate with an abundance of caution due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The six CPL franchises and match officials reported to the twin-island republic a week ago where they have been quarantined at the Hilton Hotel in St Ann's.  The tournament will get under way on August 18.

Tallawahs CEO Jeff Miller confirmed that Sarwan, who was appointed to the post two years ago, was not among that number.

“Mr Sarwan requested leave for personal reasons and that was granted,” Miller said in an interview with the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday.

“It’s a big loss, Sars (Sarwan) brings a lot to the game - his knowledge, his experience and the way he has dealt with the players over the years, so it is a great loss,” he added.

Sarwan will be replaced by former West Indies spinner Ryan Austin.  In April, Sarwan was in the news after a public spat with former teammate and then Tallawahs batsman Chris Gayle.  In a Youtube rant Gayle blamed Sarwan after he was released by the team.  Sarwan denied having anything to do with Gayle’s release.

 

The Tallawahs management this week rejected Chris Gayle’s attack on them over his exit from the CPL franchise but the Jamaica-based entity is doomed to failure if the fans don’t buy their story.

Gayle labelled Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan a "snake", "vindictive" and "despicable" as he ripped into retired Guyana and West Indies batsman and the “politics” he said triggered his departure from the Tallawahs.

On the ropes after Gayle’s verbal blows, the Tallawahs issued a terse press release that was too tame to be taken seriously, then stiff jabs by Andre Russell and Sarwan’s Gayle rebuttal 24 hours later hurled the issue into more confusion.

The Tallawahs top brass says omitting Gayle from the Tallawahs 2020 CPL roster was made purely on business and cricketing reasoning but the “business” reasoning seems seriously flawed.

Sabina Park attendance is critical to the franchise’s commercial success and we’ve already seen how unattractive a Gayle-less Tallawahs is to Jamaican fans. Not to mention the possibility of a calculated match boycott in solidarity over any perceived disrespect of a local star, as we’ve seen before in Caribbean cricket.

In April 1992, Barbadians pointedly shunned the historic one-off Test at Kensington Oval against South Africa because an anticipated debut was not given to local boy Anderson Cummins, who at that time enjoyed probably a mere 5% of the immense popularity Chris Gayle commands in Jamaica.

Gayle was visibly hurt in his YouTube outburst as he lashed the Tallawahs and Sarwan.

It was, to me, an unprofessional display by a giant in modern-day cricket but the new age of communicating with fans probably made it easy for him to go that route. His rant though, not only badly tainted his ex-West Indies teammate Sarwan but also soiled Chris Gayle and cricket’s image.

The Jamaica Tallawahs were – based on Gayle’s account – hugely at fault for not communicating with him honestly that they weren’t interested in retaining him for the 2020 season and absolutely nothing in the Tallawahs’ press release refuted Gayle’s charge that CEO Jeff Miller and Owner Krish Persaud failed to inform him that he was not in their plans for the upcoming season.

Gayle, now 40 years old, felt betrayed by an organization that gave him their word and went back on it. Gayle made only a passing mention of this, but it’s also instructive that Miller chose to speak directly with Gayle instead of the standard route of going through his agent.

It is very easy for me to deduce that the Tallawahs’ request – according to Gayle – to take not one or two but three pay cuts, may have been a strategy to frustrate him away from the franchise since they were not brave enough to confront the big-hitting superstar-about releasing him from the deal.

I understood fully the Tallawahs being “disappointed” over the way Gayle went public and I agree with their position to “much rather have had these discussions in private” but that is under normal circumstances and clearly Gayle did not consider the circumstances normal. He felt he was dealing with a group that he could no longer trust.

Did this Jamaican franchise ever consider that Gayle would have needed time to pursue other options if he knew he wasn’t with them? It was on deadline day that Gayle said he was called, not by the Tallawahs, but by a CPL official who did not see his name on the list!

Because of Gayle’s monumental record as a T20 batting star and crowd puller, the St Lucia Zouks snapped him up immediately. Gayle could have been left out-of-contract for the 2020 season because of the Tallawahs’ non-communication.

I am not interested at this point in addressing Gayle’s scathing and toxic references to his “former” friend Sarwan, nor the rebuttal coming from the 39-year-old Guyanese that he had no part in “the decision or the decision-making process” in not retaining Gayle. A lot was said in the narrative from both men and at this stage, it’s one man’s word against the other. Both very wounded by actions of the other. Cricket lost in that exchange.

I became aware very early in my career as a broadcast journalist that while fans worship sporting heroes because of the unbridled joy they generate, these successful men and women on the field of play are human beings like us.

They have imperfections, character weaknesses and limitations that adoring fans will hastily gloss over in standing behind them in times of controversy.

The Jamaica Tallawahs may have been in a position regarding Gayle as some Big Bash and IPL franchises had reached, where his stocks had declined over time, so Gayle being at a crossroad in franchise T20 cricket is not new. He had not been a part of Australia’s Big Bash since 2016 and his IPL standing had been shaken ahead of the 2018 season.

Gayle’s career had been highlighted by some tremendous seasons with Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore, including 2012 when he topped the IPL’s batting charts with 733 runs at an awesome 61.80 average and 2013 when he averaged 59.0. But after two moderate seasons, 2016 and 2017, when he averaged a mere 22.7 and 22.2, RCB were no longer interested and he almost went unsold ahead of the 2018 IPL campaign.

The King’s XI Punjab bought him and he showed in 2019 he still had shots to fire with a 40.83 average.

As a privately owned franchise, The Jamaica Tallawahs has to make its own decisions. Under Chris Gayle’s leadership last year, the team played very poorly and finished last with eight defeats in their 10 games. He averaged a moderate 24.30 and his 243-run tally was No.2 on the Tallawahs batting list behind the New Zealander Glen Phillips (374).

By Gayle’s own admission, there was turmoil in the camp as referenced in his caustic YouTube address admitting that he “flipped” in a “very heated meeting” ahead of the last CPL game that “almost got physical”, clear signs there of a dysfunctional team setting. The scale of the clash with Gayle suggesting players were “making fun of the Universe Boss” and mocking him “in front of the younger players” could be interpreted as team damage that’s irreparable.

So, If the Jamaica Tallawahs managers believe that going forward without Gayle is a step toward rebuilding, it is their right, but it should have been done professionally, certainly more skillfully given what Gayle represents to Jamaican cricket fans.

The current world leader in T20 cricket Andre Russell has also jumped in, accusing the Tallawahs of poor communication while angrily announcing he is quitting the franchise after the upcoming season scheduled to start in August.

The CPL has been sold to the Caribbean public as an event with huge economic benefits potentially to the territories, but the truth is that team owners have been struggling over the years and the Tallawahs are heading for even tougher times.

This is not to suggest that the Tallawahs franchise cannot flourish without Gayle because he would have to go at some point, but Gayle’s absence has negatively affected CPL attendance at Sabina Park in the past and that effect would be escalated if the fan perception is that the T20 batting Phenom was disrespected by the Tallawahs owners and management.

Ramnaresh Sarwan has vehemently denied having anything to do with the Jamaica Tallawahs’ decision not to retain for the upcoming 2020 Hero CPL and that he encouraged the Tallawahs’ overseas players to disrespect him.

An angry Chris Gayle has described Jamaica Tallawahs Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan as a snake and a backstabber in a series of videos in which he explains the reasons behind his move from the Jamaica Tallawahs to the St Lucia Zouks for the 2020 CPL season.

Former West Indies middle-order batsman, Ramnaresh Sarwan, has lauded Cricket West Indies President Ricky Skerritt for the work he has done since coming to the post a year ago.

According to Sarwan, Skerritt has had to make ‘hard decisions’ and he has made them.

Skerritt’s tenure as CWI president has been under scrutiny because of the stunning manner in which he ousted three-term incumbent Dave Cameron in March of 2019. “He has been doing a good job and has had to make hard decisions, and it’s good to see when you have to make harsh decisions, you make them in the right way,” said Sarwan in an interview with Kaieteur News.

According to Sarwan, Skerritt’s tenure so far has not been without its challenges but those were to be expected given the state of the CWI when he took the reins.

“When he came in it was a difficult time, not only the financial challenges they had to deal with but, so far, you got to give him the props where someone deserves props,” he said.

Sarwan, who played 87 Tests, 181 ODIs and 18 T20Is for the West Indies between 2000 and 2013, was one of the former players asked by the Skerritt administration to act as consultant to the West Indies ahead of their tour to Ireland last May.

The batsman averaged 40.01 and 42.67 in Tests and ODI’s respectively, scoring 15 centuries in the longest format of the game and five in the 50-over version.

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