Ramnaresh Sarwan, the West Indies batsman who hasn’t played since June 2011, has won his case against the WICB over comments made about his fitness and has been awarded $161,000 in damages.
The matter was heard in arbitration.
Though the verdict was delivered earlier this March*, details of the ruling have only emerged in the last week. Reportedly, one reason being cited, is WIPA wanted to make certain the players had got the money in hand.
Sarwan had lodged the appeal, in conjunction with the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA), against the WICB 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 season but also damaged his “reputation as a professional cricketer” and “sullied his career as an international cricketer.”
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 this summer 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.
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,” Jairam noted 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.
“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. “Dr. Hilaire defended the professionalism of the staff. Mr. Sarwan was told that he would need to satisfy team management that he was sufficiently fit to play.”
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.” 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.
However, a WICB media release, made public on September 2, 2010 put the onus on Sarwan. “The team management, selection committee and the WICB are concerned about Mr. Sarwan’s extremely indifferent attitude and sporadic approach towards fitness, particularly in recent years. It is the considered view of the selection committee, following consultations with the specialists in the team management, that Ramnaresh’s less than satisfactory and fluctuating fitness levels have directly contributed to multiple injuries thereby causing him to be unavailable for selection to the West Indies team.
“Due to these multiple injuries, Ramnaresh was available for only two Tests and a total of only 13 international matches for West Indies in the past contract year, (October 2009 to September 2010) which is less than half of the total number of matches played by West Indies for the period.”
Deposing before Jairam, Sarwan said he was shocked as no one from the team management or the WICB had sent him a report expressing any concern. He found the release to be a breach of the WICB’s MOU with players.
While delivering the verdict, Jairam said he wasn’t 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. Accordingly, he awarded Sarwan the following damages: $95,000 as damages for loss of retainer (original claim $120,000), $20,000 as damages for breach of contract (claim: $40,000), $18,000 for loss of provident fund contributions given his age (claim: $18,000), $13,000 as damages for loss of publicity/reputation (claim: $15,000), and $15,000.00 under his claim for further or other relief.