December 14, 2012

'We have to beat Australia, England and South Africa'

Darren Sammy isn't satisfied with West Indies' recent success. He wants his side to hunger for more

One of the lasting images of 2012 will be that of West Indies captain Darren Sammy holding the World Twenty20 trophy aloft. After three rough years in charge, he has finally led West Indies to a title they can cherish. Sammy spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the tournament and how he views his time as captain

The last time you spoke to ESPNcricinfo was just after you had drawn a Test against Indiain Dominica . A lot has happened since then.
I was at a New Year's party with my friends and family. They kept telling me to make 2012 my year. It's funny because my birthday is on the 20th of the 12th month, so this year it will be 20/12 on 2012. This year I will [really] celebrate my birthday!

It has been a good year for us as a team. The highlight of it was winning the World Twenty20 in Sri Lanka. We have taken baby steps along the way in Tests and ODIs, things like competing against higher-ranked opposition like Australia in Tests. I always thank and pray to the lord. We had a rough time but now we are seeing a little bit of success, so it is always good.

You started the World Twenty20 as one of the favourites but made a slow start. What did you think when the Ireland match was rained off?
We believed that once we played to our full potential, we could win the tournament. The game against Ireland ensured we went through to the Super Eights and we reflected on the previous winner, England, who went through the first round without winning a game.

The moment I really believed that we were going to win the World Cup was in the game against New Zealand. After we went through that game, I felt nothing would stop us from winning. I remember during that chase there was little difference between balls and runs. I was on the boundary where I closed my eyes and said a prayer to god. "This is not the way I had envisioned [it], there's no way we are going home." Slowly the game unfolded and we all know what happened.

The coach has instilled discipline and professionalism, and the guys are making a conscious effort to work hard and play for the Caribbean people. It has paid off.

Coming into the final, what did you feel when the scoring rate was slow at the start?
I think we were 42 in ten overs [32 for 2]. [Dwayne] Bravo and [Marlon] Samuels got ten runs in the following over [12th over] - the highest till that point. Our backs were against the wall but I was still smiling. The coach asked me why. I said I just have a strong feeling that we will win the game. The coach said if we score as much as we did against Sri Lanka in the first round, we would win the game. It so happened that we won convincingly.

As I was talking to the coach, Samuels just took control of the show. I guess the XI that went out there on the field knew what everybody was capable of doing. It was a complete team effort.

Was it also a vindication of your captaincy?
No, no, no. One of the mottos I live by is that everything in life happens for a reason. I knew somewhere around the corner, with all the criticism, the lord will shine on me and the team someday. He waited for the grand finale to shine upon us. We now have a new, revived belief. When we step out, we believe that we can not only compete but win against higher-ranked opposition.

"Captaincy has made me even more responsible, more aware of my surroundings. It has made me become a better man, exercising patience, become strong mentally"

What was your most cherished memory of the final
We know how to celebrate and party. Lifting the cup and seeing all my team-mates and the coaching staff smiling was the most important point in all the celebration.

Having said that, the reception Jonathan Charles and I received when we returned to St Lucia was just amazing. Thousands of people came out to meet us at the airport, and as we drove into the city, every community came out to the street to cheer for us. It was something we needed in the Caribbean. For years and years, we have been craving for silverware. Cricket is the one thing that unifies the people, and the manner in which we won, with our backs against the wall, it was very important.

I know the players will fall back on these memories whenever we are in a lull. These experiences will definitely make the team stronger.

Daren Ganga said it is a matter of time that Trinidad & Tobago plays as a separate nation.
That's his view. I tend to differ from that. People were probably disappointed in the way in which we were playing, but they still watch. Once we do well, you see them having fun, drinking in the rum shops. If you ask anybody now, cricket is the main sport of the Caribbean.

You have now seen both bad and good times as a captain. How much has captaincy changed you?
It has made me even more responsible, more aware of my surroundings. It has made me become a better man, exercising patience, become strong mentally. The pressure that comes with being a captain - you still need to have a level head to go out there day in and day out to work and lead your team-mates; you have to be a strong person.

It has made me a stronger individual, a stronger husband and a more family-oriented guy. It has made me cherish life even more. Things are slowly turning around but I know that nothing lasts forever. I still have to put in an honest day's work and be consistent in what I do. The most important thing is that I know who I am. I understand myself. I accept myself for what and who I am. When I go out there, I could only be me.

How has Chris Gayle's return been for you?
I have never had any issues with Chris and he doesn't have any issues with me. We all know what happened throughout the time he was out. It wasn't my doing, [it was] a board decision. It has been dealt with and we are just happy to have him back and the team is doing well.

Chris has always been a character in the dressing room. We all love to watch him bat and the youngsters have enjoyed batting with him.

I am sure we have passed that stage in our cricket and we are building a stronger, united West Indies cricket team.

And have you been enjoying Marlon Samuels' second coming?
I am really happy for him. After being out of cricket for two years, he has carried the batting with [Shivnarine] Chanderpaul and the rest of the youngsters. He seems very hungry to go out and perform.

There are more helping hands for you with the seniors coming back, the coach, and a manager in Richie Richardson, also a former West Indies captain. Has the captaincy burden become lighter?
I wouldn't call it a burden. It's good to have experience around you, have people who give you good advice and help you along, because they have been through certain situations. I have made it my duty to involve senior players in decision-making on the field. I am one who is never too big to take advice from any player.

We still have a long way to go. The T20 win doesn't mean West Indies is back on top. We have to beat Australia, England and South Africa. Once we start doing that consistently, the team will be heading in the right direction.

How do you remain true to yourself with all that is going on around you?
I give a lot of credit for who I am to the way my parents raised me. I was raised in a very happy home, where I saw my father treat my mother very well. My mother is a fighter. Maybe she didn't know where the next meal would come from, but she believed that god will find a way. She raised me in a god-fearing home.

I have made so many mistakes in life but the good thing is that I am aware of what's right and wrong. I question myself when I do the wrong thing. I got a few simple rules in life.

One of them is what I spoke about post-match of the T20 World Cup final - I believe that no matter who you are and what situation you are in, if god knew you couldn't handle it, he wouldn't put you through it. When there's all the talk in the media about me, I say this to myself. And no matter what you're going through, there's still somebody who's going through more than you.

I guess I am in a happy stage in my life. I will be 29 years old and I have done what I wanted as a little boy - to play for West Indies. Now I am something that I never thought would be - the captain. I must cherish that.

I have a lovely wife who is carrying my child right now. I have two beautiful boys. My parents support me, I have great friendships. I got no reason to be angry at the world. I am just a happy lad and I'm just being me. I don't let anybody steal my joy.

Many captains in world cricket are going through a tough time. Do you have any advice for them?
(Laughs) I would love to get advice from guys like Michael Clarke. He has batted so well throughout the year. Also Alastair Cook, the way he is batting. Once we ride the tough times and we believe what we are trying to do is the right thing, god will show us the way. Do it with a smile on your face. The more you do that, the younger you look, that's what I know. People love the way I smile. But I smile only because I'm a happy guy.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent