Has there been a more heavily questioned captain than Darren Sammy in recent times? Even on those rare occasions when the West Indies have won, the critics have not been shy. He wouldn’t be in the side if he wasn’t captain, they argue. He is keeping out more talented allrounders, they claim. He is an administration man, they allege, as if staying away from controversy and focusing on cricket is somehow a bad thing.
The West Indies’ victory in the ICC World T20 in Sri Lanka now stands as vindication of the man and his methods. Sammy is too nice a man to admit it, but the win must have been all the sweeter because of the criticism he has endured since taking over as captain in 2010, having played just eight Tests.
It would have been easy for Sammy to buckle under the criticism and the weight of West Indies’ own history. He had not campaigned for the captaincy. It was given to him along with a legacy that is probably unmatched in the history of sport, leave alone cricket. If he had grown petulant and lashed out, it would have been understandable.
Instead Sammy chose to stay above the fray. He has never ducked the media or avoided the hard questions. He simply repeated and repeated and repeated his desire to mould a better team, one imbued with loyalty, consistency, discipline and hard work. A team in the true sense of the word, not just on paper; in some ways a team in his own image.
Sammy is not the most exciting cricketer to watch, though he does not get as much credit for being able to hit a cricket ball a long way as he should, but he knows his strengths and weaknesses and plans accordingly. His nagging, strangling medium-pace will never run through a side but it allows pressure to be built and others to benefit. It is perhaps the most effective in T20 cricket, where batsmen do not have the luxury of waiting for a bad ball. His effectiveness showed in the ICC World T20 final, where he took 3 for 6 in a low-scoring game. His explosiveness with the bat – 26 from xx balls – was exactly the supporting act Marlon Samuels needed.
But it is the dignity with which he has led the team that has stood out above all. Whatever else may be said about him, his commitment to the West Indies cause cannot be questioned. He longs to see the side return to its winning ways and is determined to create a unit that pulls in the same direction. That’s why even someone as talented as Chris Gayle had to be exiled. IF you aren’t drinking the Coolaid, you can’t come to the party. While that may have set the team back in the short run, Gayle’s triumphant return for the World T20 proves the method behind the apparent madness.
The day after he was made captain in 2010, Sammy told ESPNCricinfo that he wanted to “bring back the joy” to West Indies cricket. Over the last few years, the joy has been hard to find. Over the last three weeks however, he has done exactly that while proving he can lead a band of men to the top of the mountain. Yes, the West Indies still have a long way to go in one-day and Test cricket, but for now Sammy can be justifiably proud of what he has accomplished.