Sarwan chronicles strained relationship with Bennett King
By Avenash Ramzan
Not having an appreciation for one’s culture, among other things, made Bennett King the worst coach that retired Guyana and West Indies batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan worked with during his career.
In a tell-it-all interview with News Room, the 36-year-old Guyanese lashed out at the Australian for not having the best interest of the team at heart, but rather being loyal to his employer- the West Indies Cricket Board.
King was West Indies coach from 2004 to 2007, but it was not all smooth sailing as, according to Sarwan, who last week announced his retirement from the sport, King and the players never saw eye-to-eye.
The players were unhappy, Sarwan recounted, pointing out that the Australian never had an appreciation for culture, something the elegant right-hander believes is critical for a foreigner working in a system that requires people management.
“In my opinion, especially if you’re managing people, first and foremost, you have to appreciate people’s culture, and I think he never did. I think he saw it as an opportunity to probably use people as slaves,” Sarwan pointed out.
“Being in New Zealand [in 2006] and getting players to wake up at 06:30h and trying to take them to a lake that is cold and telling them it is going to be as good as an ice bath, that is ridiculous, especially with people coming from this part of the world. Even with other players- Australians and those from New Zealand- when you speak to them and you share some of the experiences they think that it was crazy. And he was also targeting quite a few players. He tried to get rid of a few players; of course I was one of them.”
Back in 2007, Sarwan labelled King “one of the worst coaches” he has worked under, and alleged that the coach was abusive to players.
“The coach was not as open as I would have liked and he was definitely not firm enough. He was also very aggressive and vocally abusive to certain players to the point where he even threatened them. Obviously, this made those players very uncomfortable,” Sarwan said back then.
“Forced” and “threatened”
During the wide-ranging interview with News Room last week, Sarwan recalled how he was targeted on the West Indies tour of New Zealand in 2006, and was forced to play in an ODI despite carrying a strained thigh.
The Guyanese had scores of 56, 14 and 65 in the three previous ODIs, and after picking up the injury in the third match, he was hoping to be rested for the fourth with the aim of being in peak condition for the impending Test series.
However, that was not to be as he was “forced” and even “threatened” that he would have to play in the fourth match, in which he made 42. As expected, the injury worsened, cutting short his involvement in the five-match ODI series.
“Prior to the New Zealand tour, there was a big campaign for me not to go to New Zealand. Fortunately, due to my performance, I was able to be selected. We were scheduled to play five one-dayers. I strained my thigh in the third game so I was concerned because my ultimate goal is to play Test cricket. So the fourth game I was very concerned that if I play it would rule me out of the Test match [series],” Sarwan reflected.
He continued, “I was basically forced to play the fourth game and I was threatened that if I didn’t play it I would be sent home. So I wasn’t really left with much of a choice- either way I was coming home. He sold it to me that we haven’t done well and I’m the only batsman in form and blah, blah, blah. I ended up playing and just as I thought, it got worse and I was sent home from the tour.”
Sarwan related how he subsequently confronted King in 2006 in Malaysia. “I said ‘I’m aware you were trying to drop me before we toured New Zealand’, and he literally started to tremble. I told him just be aware that I know the stuff that you’re doing, whether you are being encouraged internally or whether it’s your choice, just be aware that I know of it.”
Sarwan said it was hurtful to know that someone was trying to jeopardise his career ahead of a Test series, the format he was more interested in playing.
“Of course it was. And that was not the only situation or incident that occurred. There are many, many incidents that took place, and like I said, [with] many other players, but I don’t want to speak for players. So that was one of it and I think we as West Indian people need to understand that not because the team is not doing well it is solely [the fault of] the players. Of course the players have to take some responsibility, but I think majority of it lies with the West Indies Cricket Board and the people they bring to manage our players,” Sarwan explained.
By contrast, Sarwan related that another Australian, John Dyson, was quite the opposite of King. Unlike King, Dyson always wanted his best team on the field and would often challenge his employers to accede to that request.
“And you could have seen progress [with Dyson], but for some reason they wanted someone else. You’re getting progress with someone, but you don’t like the team they’re picking because they’re not listening to you. So they needed to find someone who they could manipulate,” Sarwan stated.
He added, “I could recall every time John comes out of a selection meeting: ‘Sars, Chris this is headache. All I say to them or all I want from them is my best team. If I don’t get my best team I can’t win. I need my best team.’ That has been his mantra throughout the year and little bit that he’s been there, and if you take a look at the team he’s been picking, it was a total contrast from Bennett King, because majority of the time he [Dyson] wanted his best to play. He wasn’t caught up with the politics and if it meant he had to lose his job so let it be.”
Sarwan, a former Guyana and West Indies captain, officially retired from international and First-Class cricket, ending with over 11,800 international runs and 20 hundreds. He averaged over 40 in both Tests and ODIs, and scored 33 First-Class hundreds.
Editor’s note: Full interview with Ramnaresh Sarwan to be aired later this week. Keep checking News Room Facebook page for updates.