India v West Indies, 2nd Test, Mumbai November 13, 2013

'I thrive on criticism' - Sammy

Manjrekar: 'Sammy helps keep temperaments in check'

Darren Sammy knows the feeling. He has been there many times before. After every West Indies loss, the first man questioned is Sammy. Does the spirit, the pride, the passion he brings make up for the imbalance this less-than-strike-bowler causes to the side? Would the side feel the need for an extra bowler had Sammy been a tearaway fast bowler looking to take wickets? Then again, Sammy is the only man of any sort of pace that has stayed fit in the West Indies side for any considerable period. He bowls long, consistent spells when others are being awry, although the last Test is not a good example of that.

So the question is asked of Sammy again. He has to justify his place in the side. More than batsmen who are throwing their wickets away like millionaires. More than bowlers who are missing their length while striving for pace. "I have said many times before I thrive on criticism," Sammy said. "Probably it is the way the big man works above. I need to be under pressure to bring the best out of me. I have been in that situation from the day I started my career.

"To be honest right now I am not even worried. There is nothing more that anybody can say that will faze me," he said. "I criticise myself as well. I am not really worried about the criticism. I am here to do a job to the best of my ability. When the selectors who put me in that position feel it is time to move on, then so be it. We have moved on from Sammy as captain in one-day cricket. I am still enjoying the game. That [criticism] is the least of my worries right now."

This time, though, Chris Gayle has joined Sammy after looking uncomfortable in Kolkata. What is he going through? "I don't know if I could go into his mind," Sammy said. "I am not worried about Chris. Chris is somebody that could come up on any given day, like he has done all over the world, and destroy any attack. Hopefully he can start in this match, but over the years we have learned to not rely on one person. We all fight for each other together."

As a batting unit, which he now should be considered a part of because West Indies are playing only five specialist batsmen, there is a lot of work to do after the disappointing show in the three-day defeat in Kolkata. "I think it's more of us applying ourselves, being mentally tougher," Sammy said. "Both teams came into this series playing one-day cricket. India adjusted quicker than us. We were not patient enough. Once we were put under pressure, we didn't respond well enough. Something to work on."

Sammy spoke about working on the mental side of things after the last Test, but how can you change it in three-four days? "It is up to each individual to go back to that wonderful place where you were happy and confident," Sammy said. "To go back to that one good innings you had, that good bowling spell, that moment of brilliance you had, and fall back on it and get your inspiration.

"It is about getting inspiration from whatever, your kids, your family, your mum, your dad, whatever. To go out there and fight for yourself and your team-mates. It is going to be tough. It is always difficult to face India in India. It is a tough battle. But this team likes a challenge. We have to show we can rise to the challenge, and give Sachin a good send-off."

About the send-off, Sammy is hoping his bowlers will be extra motivated and queuing up to take that historic wicket, Tendulkar's last. "From the moment we heard Mumbai was going to be his last Test, all the bowlers were quite motivated," Sammy said. "This is a chance to go down in history. The last stroke he would play in any cricket match. Your name could down in there. The guys are motivated. Knowing Tino Best, he could be in his 14th over, and if Sachin comes in he would want to bowl."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo