West Indies v India, 1st ODI, Trinidad June 5, 2011

Sammy unfazed by captaincy questions

Captains rarely evoke sympathy. Darren Sammy does, because of the context of West Indies cricket. If he were captain of any other "weaker" side, it wouldn't be this bad. It's the burden of West Indies cricket, with its glorious past and strong leaders, which puts him under pressure. He almost doesn't fit. It's our fault really, for judging him based on nostalgia of West Indian glory, but it is he who bleeds.

Apply salve on the wound and carry on with his chin up is all that Sammy can do. "My family sends up prayers and the blessings come down," he says. "The almighty looks out." When humans are criticising, he has no choice but to dive into his faith to look after himself. Before the series began, Sammy was asked about his place in the Test side. "I go out and do what I have to do. Check the stats and stuff, I have done quite well as a Test cricketer. Whenever I step on to the field, I have West Indian cricket at the heart."

He is not West Indies' best bowler, he is not their best batsman but Sammy is their captain. It's his cross to carry and Sammy has decided to simply focus on his game. He says all the right things. Yet cracks show in his visage. There's a gaping Chris-Gayle sized hole to fill. Through the World Cup, Sammy often mentioned how Gayle was a motivational figure and how he sought his advice.

This is when Sammy's sympathetic figure helps. Not many in the Caribbean blame him for the Gayle fiasco. The heat has been turned on the board, the coach Ottis Gibson, and Gayle himself. "What can poor Sammy do? He is just doing a job that he has been asked to do, and he is doing it to the best of his ability," says a fan. "It's not his fault that he became the captain but he is trying his best to do justice."

It's that sentiment that evokes sympathy. Sammy didn't become captain because of his ambition. He became captain because the WICB was wary of the ambitions of other men, who have fallen out of favour. It's a situation similar to when Raj Singh Dungarpur, then the BCCI president, caught Mohammad Azharuddin, shy and unambitious at the time, unawares with an often quoted line from cricket lore: "Mian, captain banaoge?" (Do you want to be the captain?). Azharuddin, though, was in a different league as far as cricketing skills go compared to Sammy.

Sammy knows all he can do is to keep doing his stuff. Shut out the world. Pull down the blinds. And keep improving his game. "I have enjoyed the captaincy. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but I have the support of my team," he says. "I believe in my ability and try my best. I can be more consistent with my performances and I am striving to do that."

The question, though, is still resonating in the Caribbean. Is the team more united under Sammy? Is he being the captain best for West Indies cricket? Or is he just a stopgap solution?

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo