'This is for the Caribbean people' - Sammy
They had clapped in the Premadasa media room after Darren Sammy finished his pre-final press conference on Saturday. They clapped in the Premadasa press box on Sunday after West Indies took the last Sri Lankan wicket to win the World Twenty20 2012. They clapped in the Premadasa media room after Sammy finished his post-final press conference. So rare have such occasions been for West Indies cricket after their decline that Sammy called this victory "the best moment for me".
The West Indies captain sauntered into the media room draped in the maroon West Indies cricket flag. He kept the World Twenty20 trophy proudly in front of him on the table. "My trophy is so big I can't see you," he joked with the first questioner.
He spoke about treasuring the achievement for the rest of his life. He was asked whether his performance with both bat and ball in the final was an answer to the critics who had questioned his place in the side all along. He said when even Christ was crucified without fault, he himself was nothing. It was a much-criticised, large-hearted man speaking from his heart, and Sammy didn't hold back tonight.
"We will definitely cherish this moment. I will for sure," Sammy said. "We're going to relive it every day of our lives. This is the best moment for me in any cricket. This here (the trophy) is for the Caribbean people. West Indies fans all over the world have been craving success. I know they're partying from Jamaica down to Guyana. And we know how to party. I think they'll need a lot of bartenders."
Sammy said while the critics had a job to do, he had always believed in playing for the Caribbean people. "The commentators get paid to speak. The media get paid to write stories. I get paid to play cricket," Sammy said. "Critics will always be there. Someone might find something wrong I did today even though we won. That does not worry me. The most important thing is that the team did well.
"And I always say I live my life one way. Christ came to this earth, did nothing wrong and yet was crucified. I'm nowhere close to that man.
"Anybody could have an opinion about me. I like it. My shoulders are broad enough. It's been like that from the time I started cricket. Once I wear this [West Indies] crest (pointing to his shirt), I wear it on my heart. That's what matters. If I turn up and don't have a good day, I suck, I'll come the next day and try and put in a better performance. I don't play for glory. I play for the Caribbean people."
Sammy was asked what had won the game for West Indies, after they had been 32 for 2 at the halfway stage of their innings. He spoke about belief, and he spoke about God. "We have a strong belief in God. He works in mysterious ways. He performs wonders," Sammy said. "Like I kept saying in every press conference, there's a belief we had in the team. Yes, we expected them (Sri Lanka) to give us a good fight and they did.
"Throughout the last year or so, we've been showing that never-say-die attitude, but we've not been winning games. In this tournament, we've won games. Every man believed that whoever was out there could do the job. Today, it was Marlon Samuels and (Dwayne) Bravo steadying the ship. In the end, every run counts. The bowling discipline was just brilliant, and the fielding. I said we needed our A-plus game, this here is proof of it."
After Marlon Samuels' 78 had carried them to 137, Sammy said West Indies believed they had a chance. "The coach was saying that if we get the score we got in Pallekele (129 for 5 against Sri Lanka) on this wicket, we'll win the match," Sammy said. "The momentum we had from our batting carried through to our bowling. It was Dwayne Bravo's birthday, so in the huddle, I gave him the chance to say the last words before we went on the field. He said, 'let's go out there and give it our all. If we do that and play how we can play, these runs are going to be a fighting total'. Ravi (Rampaul) started it off with his first ball, and we never looked back from there.
"We have some of the most experienced Twenty20 players. Once we play the way we can, we'll always be a force to reckon with. We didn't brag about it but we believed we could go out there and take it one game at a time. I said hurdle by hurdle, and today was the final one. The coach said we're climbing to the top of a mountain, and that's where the prize is. We've got to go and take it. Today, we did that. We had different persons coming up with performances in different matches. The team has gelled well in this tournament. Signs of progress have been there, but this is the icing on the cake."
There have been questions raised about the unity of the squad in the past, and the board and the players have had numerous disputes, but Sammy hoped this victory could be the start of something new for West Indies cricket. "This is the moment here," he said. "Issues done and buried. Twenty20 World Cup, 2012, Sri Lanka - West Indies champion."
And Sammy held the trophy up. And there was another round of applause.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo