India v West Indies, 1st Test, New Delhi, 2nd day November 7, 2011

Sammy, the worker ant

The West Indies captain may not have flattering personal statistics but he brings to his side a discipline that helped them bowl India out for 209

When his press conference was halted briefly because of a malfunctioning microphone, Darren Sammy sat back in his chair and started humming the tune to a commercial that's now ubiquitous on Indian television. Then, when asked if it had been a perfect day, happy-go-lucky gave way to serious, and he said: "Not at all". Those two vignettes might provide some insight for those that continue to question Sammy's place in, and leadership of, this West Indies side.

No one who averages 16.80 with the bat and 28.20 with the ball is going to invite comparisons with Garfield Sobers, though the numbers aren't too different from a legend of an earlier era, Baron Learie Constantine. But what Sammy brings to this team cannot be measured in terms of runs and wickets.

While others have allowed ego and personal ambition to chart their course, he remains the worker ant with the cool head to take others along with him.

That was apparent as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir rattled along at more than seven an over on the second day at Feroz Shah Kotla. The breakthrough may have been the by-product of luck, but what followed said much about a team that will not easily be brushed aside. "We know that's how they play," Sammy said of the 89-run stand that wouldn't have been out of place in an IPL game. "Even in Bangladesh, we saw that the new ball would go for runs. But once the ball gets older, it's difficult to score."

Compared to the all-star sides of years gone by, this is a West Indies side largely untouched by greatness. But it's also a team that knows its limitations and makes the best of what it's got. "Regardless of whether you're bowling to Sachin or [Ishant] Sharma, you've still got to land the ball in the right areas," Sammy said. "We encountered similar conditions in Bangladesh, and the key is to bowl straight, wicket to wicket."

Part of the reason for the success on Monday was the fact that each of the four frontline bowlers performed a specific task. Fidel Edwards provided raw pace and impact, was luckless in his first spell and then the man who silenced a sizeable crowd with the wicket of Tendulkar. Ravi Rampaul was the workhorse, rewarded with the wicket of Dravid. Sammy provided control and medium-pace variations that were effective on such a slow surface and earned him figures of 3 for 35, while Devendra Bishoo's patchy day was summed up by the leg-side stumping of Sehwag off his bowling that transformed the game.

Ottis Gibson, the coach, has angered many in the Caribbean by ignoring more talented players, arguing that they lack the team ethic that he's convinced will be at the heart of any progress. The urge to improve can be seen most in those who have experienced rejection before. Carlton Baugh spent six years in exile, but his superb display behind the stumps was integral to West Indies getting a 95-run first-innings lead in New Delhi. As for Sammy, the hecklers in the crowd were soon silenced.

This game is far from won, and Sammy reiterated that the discipline and shot selection shown by Shivnarine Chanderpaul on the opening day would be the template for his batsmen to follow on Tuesday. Kraigg Brathwaite was nearly strokeless before being dismissed for 2 off 41 balls, but the captain stuck to the refrain that some of his young wards needed to learn to play time.

He got riled only once, when someone suggested that few had expected this West Indian attack to have the capability of bowling out India twice to win a Test. "I don't know whose opinion you're talking of," he said curtly. "Certainly, no one within the team was thinking that way."

There was no Marshall Law at the Kotla on Monday but there was plenty of Caribbean spirit. The likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Jerome Taylor may be elsewhere, but those rallying around the West Indies and taking their cue from Gibson and Sammy are not to be taken lightly. The smiles and high-fives are back, and they mean business. Monday's cold shower should certainly wake India up.