Sammy not deterred by criticism
"Keep doing what you are doing Sammy … all will be all right," a small section of the crowd at Sabina Park sang in the support of West Indies captain Darren Sammy. It almost felt out of place, as elsewhere in the stadium, he was getting the stick. To say that Sammy is not a popular man in the West Indies would be an understatement. Debate over his place in the Test side has filled radio waves; callers have been after his head. And on the second day in Kingston, to make matters worse, he dropped Rahul Dravid when he was on six. Dravid went on to make 112.
"I didn't sleep well last night," Sammy said with a smile at the end the third day, after he picked up four wickets. The crowds were still gunning for him. "When I am out on the field I don't hear the crowd; I block everything around me. I have a job to do as a captain, to make field placements and changes, and I try not to take on what's said from outside. And obviously I try to put in a [good] performance. My job was to bowl lots of dot balls and restrict the scoring. And the attacking bowlers try to get the wickets. On some days fortunately I get wickets, some, I don't."
Sammy said the debate over his place in the side motivated him to do better. "When you know your back is always against the wall out there in public, you either use it as motivation or you fall down and die," he said. "I use it as a motivation. I don't view the comments from the crowd as nasty. If it's naughty I laugh. Those who encourage and those who discourage … I take it as a positive."
West Indies require another 195 runs for a win with 7 wickets remaining and Sammy believed his team could pull it off. But the pitch is up and down and taking turn, and West Indies are prone to collapses. It will be a tough ask; so much, it seems, depends on Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Brendan Nash managed just three nets sessions before this Test, Darren Bravo is yet to show he has the maturity and the nous to win Tests from such positions, and can the lower order be depended on to do this on their own? West Indies need a substantial contribution from Chanderpaul and Sammy was aware.
"We all know what Shiv is capable of," Sammy said. "He has been excellent throughout his career - he has been in this kind of position many times and has handled it very well. That's why he has a Test average of just under 50. To get to this victory target we will need big partnerships. He knows what is required and will guide young Bravo out there. He is our most experienced player and I know he will come [out] with his best."
Rahul Dravid too knew it. "If we get a couple of quick wickets we can run through them," Dravid said. "But we know that Shiv is a dangerous player who can stick in there; he has got the skills to bat in any conditions and they have a few very good young batsmen as well. We need to be patient tomorrow and create chances."
Sammy believed that self-belief was key. "We have to believe we can," he said. "We just have to show the commitment and fight. The first hour will be important. The team that wins the first hour will be in a good position. At this stage it's pretty even. We have two set batsmen at the crease and they are playing well."
West Indies' approach in the second innings was refreshing. Barring Chanderpaul and Nash, West Indies don't look a team, who can defend and grind their way out of trouble, especially on a pitch with some spice in it. Adrian Barath looked almost too eager to attack, and perhaps tripped on an overdose of adrenalin; but it was better than doing nothing. "Barath and [Lendl] Simmons have together a lot for Trinidad for a long time so they bat well together. Unfortunately Barath chased a wide one, but they gave us a good start. It was good to see them being positive and trying to get to the target."
Irrespective of whether Chanderpaul scores or not, Sammy could also be called upon to contribute with the bat. Coach Ottis Gibson said he was happy with Sammy's bowling; the only thing he wanted from his captain was some runs. "The runs haven't come with my bat," Sammy said. "This could be the time when the captain gets some runs for the team. Hopefully the tables will turn."
If things turn dire tomorrow, West Indies and Sammy will look back at their first-innings batting debacle. "We should have batted much better in the first innings," Sammy said. "That has been problem for number of years. Hopefully tomorrow we will get a good score. As long as we can get the batting side of things correct, and I stop dropping these catches, we should be all right."
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo