Cool Sammy stokes West Indies' fire
"One goal, one people, one team" has been West Indies' motto at the World Twenty20, and the focus on unity is not difficult to understand, given the dressing room's recent history. The side's biggest star, Chris Gayle, has recently returned following a row with the board, while other members of the team have also spent time away, plying their trade in the IPL and elsewhere at the expense of turning out for West Indies.
Darren Sammy, the captain, has one of the most unique challenges in world cricket and has presented a united front as the team ignited their World Twenty20 campaign with a solid 16-run victory over England in the Super Eights. "I just keep everybody cool," Sammy said. "We have a lot of cool guys so when you're out there you need to have someone in charge.
"When I'm out there I try to get all the senior players involved in decision-making so everyone feels a part of the team. That's the important thing for us, that everyone in the squad feels a part of it. It's easy to do that. My character allows me to involve everyone."
Early in his tenure as captain, Sammy expressed a desire to "make West Indies cricket great again" and said the team draws inspiration from their fans in their pursuit of that goal. Tagged one of the tournament favourites because of their batting firepower, an experienced battery of T20 players and the spin of Sunil Narine, West Indies will take a major step towards qualifying for the semi-finals if they are able to defeat Sri Lanka on Saturday.
"When we left the Caribbean, winning the tournament for the fans was the most important thing in our minds," he said. "The last decade has been tough for us. We last won silverware in 2004 [the Champions Trophy]. It is a good opportunity for us to do that here. We've been playing well as a team and we have to take it one game at a time."
Sammy used part-time bowlers Gayle and Marlon Samuels in addition to Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree to make up 15 overs of spin in their victory against England. Frontline seamer Andre Russell did not bowl at all, nor did allrounder Kieron Pollard, while Sammy himself bowled just one over. Sammy hinted the West Indies attack would not be so spin-heavy against Sri Lanka, who are good players of spin, but said it was helpful to have the bowling options the allrounders and part-timers provide.
"Everyone wants to bowl, so it's good to have that in your armoury," Sammy said. "In the last two games Chris has done well for us though he didn't bowl in five or six matches leading up to the tournament. Pollard has not bowled a ball in this tournament. It's good to have the back up. We know we have three bowlers who will definitely bowl four overs and we make up the rest with the other guys."
Sammy expected Sri Lanka's senior batsmen to be key to their chances. Sri Lanka relied on Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara and Tillakaratne Dilshan for over 80% of their runs in their Super Over victory over New Zealand on Thursday.
"The senior players always turn up for them and they have a good mix in the squad," he said. "You just can't count them out at home. Playing them is a big challenge, but it's one we're ready for."
Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka