The West Indies captain is a very fine man.
He is a calm, smiling, intelligent leader.
He remained relaxed, unruffled throughout the tournament, even retaining his cheerful countenance when the eventual World T20 champions were defeated by the rank outsiders, Afghanistan, in the group stage.
He could afford to. West Indies had already qualified for the semi-finals and he wasn’t going to deny this keen, young cricketing nation its own little piece of glory; its time in the spotlight. Sammy was confident that his team had a far greater moment awaiting them — he could foresee the bigger picture: brighter lights; sharper focus; posing with the prize — eyes of the world upon them.
Privately, he must have been annoyed by the slip; frustrated that his players had been wrong-footed; perhaps too casual in taking this apparently easy step towards the goal. Thankfully, it didn’t deflect them from their path — and maybe the journey was all the more rewarding for the odd trip on the way.
Sammy had brought his team to India with a single purpose: to win. He knew his multi-talented, 15-man squad had all that was needed to achieve a second ICC World Twenty20 title; and he expected each man to do his part.
The world’s media understandably converged on Chris Gayle in their pre-tournament coverage. Naturally, since he is the Boss — of the World, and the Universe. It’s a given, therefore, that he should be the centre of attention. But Sammy was keen to remind everyone that the West Indies were not a one-man team. At different stages of the competition, Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree, Johnson Charles, Lendl Simmons, Andre Russell, Andre Fletcher — and most dramatically of all, Carlos Brathwaite — all stepped up to prove it.
It was one of several points Sammy’s men had to prove.
In a tournament preview, Mark Nicholas categorised the Windies as ‘short on brains’ — a flippant remark for which the writer and broadcaster has unreservedly since apologised.
But most of all West Indies wanted to prove that they were winners — and prove their worth.
Their own cricket board, the WICB, had devalued them ahead of the tournament with a greatly reduced contract for playing in the competition — so they nearly didn’t. The latest in a succession of wrangles over their declining pay briefly threatened their participation. Withdrawal would have been one way of making their point — but it would have been to cut off their nose to spite their face.
Sammy’s men are an aging bunch of experienced, well-travelled, match-winning T20 specialists. To have denied themselves what was possibly a last hurrah, and an opportunity to seal their legacy, would have been self-defeating. There was also the recent example of the Caribbean Under-19 cricketers: against all expectations, they won their age-group World Cup, and brought joy and hope to their region.
Sammy and his colleagues rightly remembered that the fans come first, and put their own grievances to one side.
And what pleasure they gave! People in the Caribbean Islands can bask in the glory of a triple-triumph — Sammy’s men completing the hat-trick after Stafanie Taylor’s ladies provided the second-leg, achieving a notable first for Windies women’s cricket: winning their maiden World T20 trophy.
The men, in their celebrations, stripped off their shirts and danced half-naked in the moonlight. In his after-match interview with Nasser Hussain, skipper Sammy also had plenty to get off his chest. In victory, Darren Sammy, on behalf of his team, finally had his say.
First, he scolded Mark Nicholas for his discourteous comments; then proceeded to admonish the West Indies Cricket Board for their disrespect.
It was his platform, his opinion, and he is entitled to it.
However, I disagree with him.
He said the team, his players, had been disrespected by the WICB. The nature of that disrespect is that the Board has slashed the player’s earnings. They are redistributing the money into development programmes and have professionalised the region’s first-class game. It is money that is being taken to fund the likes of the Under 19s and other emerging young cricketers. It is money being used to develop and strengthen the women’s game.
Darren Sammy’s men fully earned their glory; and their winner’s cheques. But with so little money to go round in the Caribbean — the region being in a parlous, abject financial state — is it wrong for what there is to be channelled into the grassroots? The Board’s restructured approach was supported by the region’s cricketers’ union, the West Indies Players Association — from which most of the international players have now withdrawn.
Maybe the disrespect came from the manner in which the message was conveyed? Certainly, president Dave Cameron and his WICB colleagues could learn a little more tact and diplomacy — and improve their communication skills. Sammy suggested that the WICB had not been in contact to offer congratulations to the victors. If true, that is poor management.
They certainly have issued press releases acclaiming the men and the women’s victories — and also reprimanded the skipper for his post-match comments, promising an inquiry.
Sammy was delighted to hear from the heads of Caricom: Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell sent the team an ‘inspiring email’. A month ago, in an address to the Grenadan Cricket Association, he advocated a breakaway T20 league on the island, rebelling against the existing structures of West Indies cricket. Mitchell’s colleague, Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in a recent TV interview regretted that the BCCI had not called in its claim of $42m, and thus bankrupted the West Indies Cricket Board. Not everyone in the region shares Dr Rowley’s, or Dr Mitchell’s, or Darren Sammy’s views on the current governance of West Indies cricket.
How wise it was of Sammy to lay himself bare, only time will tell. I suspect that this on-field high point for West Indies cricket will be followed by some off-the-field lows.
The disputes will continue; and angry words will be exchanged.
Darren Sammy is an honest, passionate and admirable man. Last night he was a World Cup-winning captain; the leader of his team, and spokesman for his players. He speaks for many.
I respect his views, but disagree with them. I don’t think he speaks for all.