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
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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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mak102480 on November 9, 2011, 4:18 GMT

    @5wombats: u just proved my point...before 2011, u had to go all the way back to 1974 to talk about english success. it's a pity that in all these years england still haven't learned how to play spin or one day cricket.

  • 5wombats on November 8, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    It was 1974, I've just looked it up on cricinfo. So I must have been 15, so that's only 37 years. I watched Graham Gooch get 333 against india as well - but that would be labouring a point.

  • 5wombats on November 8, 2011, 18:53 GMT

    @mak102480 - nothing changes for some people does it. Still trotting out that same line with all the selective memory in it. Speaking of 30-40 years ago - india fans love their history don't they? Remember what happened to india in England in 1973? No probably not. That was the first time I saw india play Test cricket in the flesh at a cricket ground. I was 14 and hitting runs for my school by then so I knew what awful was when I saw it, and india were awful. india lost the 3 match series 3-0 in a whitewash. I watched india lose another series by a whitewash this summer 2011, 4-0 this time and they were awful. Doesn't look as if india have moved on much in the last 38 years..... Vanish. You wish.

  • mak102480 on November 8, 2011, 10:05 GMT

    @5wombats: u vanished after england lost the 2nd odi. and i commented plenty of times during the india-eng series. but it's ok. i dont blame you for not noticing. you were enjoying some success that england have rarely got to enjoy over the last 30-40 years.

  • 5wombats on November 8, 2011, 9:15 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira - Oh Ok. So India losing to a 4-0 Test whitewash in the Summer against England in the Test matches doesn't count because England got bowled out by the West Indies once for 51. Mmm, good logic. Speaking of chest thumping - you were doing plenty of that during the Summer in England I noticed. NOT. @mak102480 - as you know perfectly well - I followed the little ODI series between india and England and posted avidly on cricinfo. Good fans follow their side through thick and thin. Fair weather fans do something else. So, @mak102480 - where were you in the Summer during indias' ill fated tour of England? I didn't notice a single post from you then. Don't you remember not posting on cricinfo? It must be a relief to have such a poor memory. To be honest - I'm not bothered about the result in this game, but I'm very interested to see that india can be bowled out at home for 209 runs by the West Indies. Very interested.

  • Naresh28 on November 8, 2011, 8:57 GMT

    Windies are playing well. India has the advantage in their spin attack. These two together with Jadeja will be hard to displace. Bhajji's chances are gone now, I propose India uses 5 bowler policy this will keep our bowlers fresh instead of running 4 bolwers into the ground. I like what I see of Umesh Yadav - Varun is yet to be tested in this format. Ishant and Zaheer will be the combo for Australia. During the English tour the english fans kept mocking us for our bowling - not able to take 20 wickets in a game.

  • dummy4fb on November 8, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    My own prediction is that West Indies will score 165 and India will then bat chasing 260 and lose the match by 35-40 runs. It will then pave the way for the retirements of Sachin, Dravid and Laxman who need to make way for younger players. We will specially miss Dravid whose contribution to Indian cricket has been huge. WI seem to be doing better without the bigger names like Gayle, Bravo, Pollard and Ramdin who did not benefit the team. Kraigg Braithwaite seems to be the new Rizwan uz Zaman/ Trevor Franklin brand of strokeless opener, takes forever to make his runs. Bishoo seems to be a player for the long run. Whatever happened to Sarwan? At 31 is his career over?

  • Georgetown1 on November 8, 2011, 4:09 GMT

    If the WI were playing in a one day or T20 championship then definitely players like Gayle, Pollard and Bravo will be playing(maybe), but this is test match cricket 2700balls to be bowled over five days not 300 or 120. This team is being coached for test cricket and if the players adhere to the coaching they will succeed. Don't ever think that Baugh and Bishoo undo Sewhag by themselves, this is called listening to the coaching staff.Cricket is not only being played by talent and skills anymore, mentally cricketers have to be strong, just ask Hooper about Steve Waugh.The great Steven was dropped from the Aussie team but Mark stayed. He came back with determination,attiude,commitment and understanding of the game to become one of the greatest, and he already had the skills and talent.Mark remained a batsman. Some are born cricketers/captains and some are made cricketers/captains,the ones that are made becomes the best. Sammy,, Shaun P was one of the best medium pace bowlers in the world.

  • Full-Blooded-Wallop on November 8, 2011, 4:08 GMT

    @5wombats- Well I am new at cricinfo :) (though following it for many years, but started commenting since october only ;) ) and not kinda fan who leaves his team in bad times! And throughout my life have supported India. Go india Go :)

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on November 8, 2011, 3:55 GMT

    The way Sammy jumped after dismissing Dravid, that was pure unadulterated joy and happiness which we see in little kids when they get their favourite toy. Though my heart sunk at Dravid's dismissal, Sammy's pure child-like celebration brought a smile to my face. It was really refreshing to see the Windies perform so well and Sammy leading them honestly with cent percent effort and smartness. I take my hats off to Sammy. It hurts, even though I'm an Indian, when our Caribbean friends castigate Sammy. Rally behind him and your team, please. It was a pleasure to watch Sammy's celebration when he sent back my favourite cricketer Dravid. But Sammy, hold on. The game isn't over yet my friend. Good luck to the Caribbean Tigers and of course to my dearest Team India. Bring it on. Day 3.

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