West Indies Cricket July 11, 2011

Sammy and friends

From M Swaroop, India

From M Swaroop, India

There is a theory doing the rounds that with Darren Sammy in the XI, West Indies will always be either one batsman or one bowler short. It is an easy argument to make. Sammy, the batsman, struggles to make an impact because he does not have the defensive technique to play a long innings. Sammy, the bowler, is a holder, and he cannot be more than that at his pace. The only successful attacking Test bowler at Sammy's pace in recent memory is Shaun Pollock, and Sammy doesn't have the skill or the control to be him.

On the morning of the first day of the third Test, I prayed West Indies would have the courage to play one batsman less, and pick Kemar Roach to bowl with Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Sammy and Devendra Bishoo. In this series, every time West Indies had the Indian batting on the mat, the batsmen found a passage of uninspiring bowling to capitalise on - Harbhajan and Raina did it in the first Test, Laxman and Raina in the second. A fifth bowler might have helped, I thought; a fresh pair of legs, some variety.

Moreover, the extra batsman hasn't done much. On Friday, with Rampaul missing - an unfortunate, unforeseeable problem - West Indies still had India in trouble, at 18 for 2 and at 172 for 5, and both times, the bowlers who were doing the damage were too tired to continue. A fifth bowler might really have helped. But with Sammy in the fold, a fifth bowler means a batsman less. It means Carlton Baugh bats at six, and Sammy at seven - not confidence-inspiring at all. Which brings us to that easy argument again - that Sammy is a fielder, not good enough as a bowler or batsman.

Let's look at the tougher argument. That West Indies have been struggling to compete in Test matches is obvious. They won a Test after two years against Pakistan earlier this year. They ignominiously lost to Bangladesh at home some time ago when their top players walked out of the series. The board and the players’ association are locked in a battle that resembles a socialist trade union clamour for better pay and working conditions. There are player strikes, suspensions, mysterious selection decisions, controversial interviews, talks of corruption, mishandling, unnecessary interference.

For ten years now, since Walsh retired, West Indies have been fissured and fractured by politics. Sammy's appointment as captain - he's known as a board man, rather than the players' association man his predecessor Gayle was - happened in this context. He was never a regular in the Test side, and in the shorter versions, his report card read, "Can do better". His appointment came as a bolt in the blue. And it was well understood that his role as a captain is similar to his role as a bowler - hold until the next guy is fit and ready. Sammy has done a lot more.

Before Sammy, there were flashes of team-play, in that unexpected Champions Trophy win, for instance. Fans of the team, like myself, have consoled ourselves in individual brilliance - Lara's exploits against Murali, Chanderpaul's invincible runs of attrition, Gayle's random, merciless attacks, and Jerome Taylor's freak spell.

For the first time in ten years, under Sammy, West Indies are playing like a team, pooling in collective resources to punch above their weight - in a manner that reminds one of the way New Zealand play their cricket.

In this home season, they drew with Pakistan, and have troubled India more than most imagined. On Friday, with Rampaul out of the XI, it would have been easy for West Indies to bend over and submit. But two bowlers and Sammy - who, by the way, always bowls better than he looks like he's bowling - all carrying niggles, made India fight for their runs. Except in that last hour, when the bowlers were too tired to make an impact, they traded on equal terms with the Indian batting line-up. Sammy has brought this will to toil to the team, along with heart and commitment

When he's badgered in the press conferences, his responses are never tired, they are honest. When he is asked about his own merit, he responds with belief. When asked about selection, Gayle's for instance, he responds with a shrug, it's not his job to comment. And that is exactly how he plays his cricket, and how he captains the side - with enthusiasm and devotion that belies his natural talent. Maintaining his morale, his conviction amid this pressure from the media and the players is admirable enough; that he infects his team-mates with this courage is the sign of a true leader.

Today's West Indian cricketers are still only discovering how to win, and Sammy is pushing them to discover it together, as a team. Sammy is still doing a holding job, he knows that. When Bravo, Bishoo or Barath are ready, he will, most probably, make way. But he is doing a lot more than he was expected to - it is just a question of time, and a little luck, before results follow.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on April 2, 2012, 14:09 GMT

    2 match again aus 20 is good n batting order also do mind that 1 time pollard n sammy fail but in 20 used same order n one russal try as open n test also

  • testli5504537 on March 23, 2012, 23:44 GMT

    Many brilliant comments here. Sherlock says what I feel better than I could ever express it. I like Gayle very much. But he is a juvenile character. He cares not a whit about the need for the WI cricket team to play better than they have been for about 15 years. The people of the WI took great pride in the exploits of their cricket team for nearly twenty years of almost unrivalled dominance. Gayle and Sarwan have remained school boys. Content to have their egos stroked. Wine, women and song. Probably more too. They didn't give two hoots when the decline worsened under their watch. Gayle so detached, masquerading as cool, and Sarwan seemingly unable to motivate himself. To hear their vocal supporters say it you would think they had test averages of 60 instead of 40. I say they should both go away and play Twenty20 and make big bucks and indulge themselves with all that comes with superstardom. But let the WI alone. Go away Mr. Gayle and Mr. Sarwan.

  • testli5504537 on February 28, 2012, 3:00 GMT

    My friends, as I read an article from Tony Cozier, and with the WICB....chris Gayle heart is in the wrong place..and I would like everyone that wants him back to stop it. With Gayle and a few others on the side for more than 10 years the WI were losing even with Gayle...scoring a hundred in the one test, along with Sarwan...and in the others hardly getting in double figures..the WI are playing as a unitl, lets keep it that way and build on that and I will sat to the board...stop it leave Gayle on the side lines. A comment from the Jamaican government will put it to the WI's community leaders but I say tell the Jamaican government the pack it up....Gayle is West Indian and when he plays for JA find but when he plays for the West Indies team there is pride on the line..It should not matter where you are from in the WI's. Enjoy this article..

  • testli5504537 on February 26, 2012, 0:33 GMT

    sammy and the coach must go sawran and ramdin must be in the team

  • testli5504537 on February 20, 2012, 18:18 GMT

    I must say that I am a staunch West Indies supporter who migrated to US in 1984 and it pains my heart to see such mediocre cricket from past mighty WI teams. Back in those day, the players had passion, guts and skills and did not think that they could be beaten by any other country. They played under less than perfect conditions, the evoironment was more hostile and they got paid very little money. They played for the love of the game. I echo a lot of the sentiments mention previously about Sammy and his abilities. If Sammy cannot make the team as a significant contributer in batting, fielding or bowling; then, perhaps, he should serving in a different capacitity in WI cricket. To be successful, it starts from the top and all the way down to the ground keepers. Players have to be paid and put in the right enviornment to succeed and the 11 BEST play MUST be playing. WI cricket is being so mis-managed, that is why someone like Sammy gets to be captain.

  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2012, 22:50 GMT

    Equally, if Andre Russell began to show some leadership skills I would pick him instead of Sammy as he is a far more talented cricketer and not of the old frame of mind. WI cricket has visibly been on the rise since Brian Lara's retirement but it needs now a leader who will turn small successes into victories against good opposition. Darren Bravo, Kieran Powell, Jerome Taylor, Andre Russell and Devendra Bishoo are supremely talented cricketers. It can be done. A true leader is the path.

  • testli5504537 on February 18, 2012, 22:43 GMT

    For me, the Sammy issue is a question of what one wants from WI cricket, success or flair - the latter will likely come as a result of the former in my view. The problem in the recent past has clearly been the lack of a good leader. There is no denying the talent of Sarwan, Gayle and even someone like Xavier Marshall, but they have never been able to fulfil their potential because of the lack of a good leader. Brian Lara and Chris Gayle, probably the two most talented individuals of recent years, both enjoyed the spotlight more than a good team win; thus I feel they needed to be led not lead. Whilst West Indies tries to climb the rankings, they need a captain who creates unity - Sammy appears to be doing this in a way that no other captain has done in recent years. Therefore, whilst the team attempts to rebuild itself Sammy should remain captain. Talents like Gayle, Sarwan, Taylor and D.J.Bravo must prove that their hearts are with WI cricket before gaining immediate selection.

  • testli5504537 on February 17, 2012, 19:31 GMT

    since we're on the topic of west indies captaincy, i think ramdin would make a very good captain cause i think he is a great keeper and a very good batsman who continues to improve.i do think though the people who are running west indies cricket for the last 15 to 20 years has hurt west indies cricket.e.g when west indies were on top they never brought in the young players to gain the necessary experience to carry on the success,e.g when west indies were beating teams 5 zero that wasn't necessary,at 3 zero in a 5 test series the coaches and those in charge could say wait i know we could win 5 zero and it will be all great but that is a great time to bring in the young players to gain experience cause they are the future and even though we lose the last 2 we still won the series and the younger players know what it is to play against other great players.even today west indies still has that same problem of living in the moment.i would like to see them run the team like football clubs.

  • testli5504537 on February 17, 2012, 19:10 GMT

    i am going to get straight to the point,personally i don't rate sammy as a test cricketer,simply because he is not good at one of the two things a test cricket needs at this level and that is, you have to either a good bawler or a good batsman and he is neither.he may be a good leader but the team is hurting by him not being an impact bawler or batsman and for this reason west indies will always show flashes of being a great team.all that being said west indies has a lot of talent in the batting department but is a fast baller short and i mean someone who is 6ft4 or 6ft5 who bawls at 90+miles an hour so that they can scare batsmen on any surface.edwards and roach has the speed but they do not have the height to get the bounce to scare batsmen from coming on the front foot all the time and making it look easy in the middle especially for the batsmen who has to come after them.right now they have the spinners but they lack that one fast bawler and no team can win with only 5 batsmen.

  • testli5504537 on February 14, 2012, 2:38 GMT

    Sammy has proven himself to be an effective captain of the WI team. I think west indian need to stop looking at talented, indiscipline players and focus on what is best for the team. We need people who will look at playing for WI team as their job and be fully dedicated to that. For those who talk about Sarwan, i think he has proven that he cannot captain a side. Gayle is not commited to the team as a whole, he more committed to making a name for himself and money. Let's move on with the team we have and with hard work and dedication, i believe WI cricket will be where they deserve to be...on Top. Sammy keep improving ur game and ignore all the critics...they will never stop no matter how successful u are.

  • No featured comments at the moment.