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Sammy not just a victim of the results

West Indies needed someone to inspire and unite and someone fully committed to the role. Darren Sammy ticked the boxes but his numbers never stacked up.

Andrew McGlashan

May 10, 2014

Comments: 42 | Text size: A | A

For all his commitment, Darren Sammy never really cracked Test cricket © Getty Images

On the eve of the Test series against New Zealand late last year, Darren Sammy marked down some significant personal objectives. "I want to reassure myself as a Test captain and Test cricketer," he said.

Little more than three weeks later, a dejected, shell-shocked Sammy sat down in the indoor nets at Seddon Park to try to explain away a West Indies collapse that had seen them lose all ten wickets in a session to consign them to a 2-0 series defeat. "There are tough decisions to be made by the coach and the director of cricket, some careers are on the line, could be mine as well, you never know," he said, with the honesty and openness that has always been Sammy's way.

He was right, too. That proved his last press conference as West Indies' Test captain and a West Indies Test cricketer. You sensed at the time that he had a gut feeling about the loss of the former status, but the latter has come somewhat out of the blue. He had never chased the captaincy but did not want to let it go yet; now that it had gone, he has decided the long format is not for him anymore.

Rumours began circulating as West Indies arrived in New Zealand from India that change could be afoot, but the gap in their Test programme since December meant the axe did not come until yesterday.

The 2-0 loss in New Zealand made it four heavy Test losses in five matches - a run broken by the notable draw in Dunedin, but which without rain would have been another loss - and although that was pegged against six wins on the bounce, those included victories against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe on home soil. Overall Sammy's record as captain stood at: played 30, won eight, lost 12, drawn 10.

And neither was it just the losses, it was the manner of them, capitulating as West Indies did in Hamilton, Wellington, Mumbai and Kolkata. "It's the same record we keep hearing," Sammy said after the New Zealand series concluded. Any small gains - Shane Shillingford's bowling, Darren Bravo's double-hundred, Denesh Ramdin's counter-attacking century - were offset by spates of dropped catches, batsmen undone at the first sight of swing (or spin), and a lack of basic consistency in pace bowling.


Darren Sammy celebrates his century, England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day, May 26, 2012
Darren Sammy has just one Test ton to show © AFP
Enlarge

However, Sammy has not just been a victim of the results. It would be possible to argue that as a leader he remained a viable choice for captain, but his inability to master two disciplines well enough to justify a place without question hurt his credentials (his fielding, especially the slip catching, remains among the best in the world). Trying to fit 12 players into 11 is a problem often faced when trying to balance a side, but when the trickiest piece of the jigsaw is the captain it becomes an unsustainable situation.

This was not a scenario that had crept up on West Indies. In a sense, then, you could argue that they have reaped what they sowed, but having suffered a damaging strike in 2009, which forced them to field a 2nd XI against Bangladesh, the board wanted someone detached, as much as is ever possible in the West Indies, from the political wrangles.

When Sammy took over the role from Chris Gayle in 2010, he was not even a regular in the starting XI. West Indies needed someone to inspire and unite and someone fully committed to the role. Sammy, a man brimful of passion, ticked those boxes among a small field of candidates.

But the numbers never stacked up: as captain he averaged 22.43 with the bat and 39.61 with the ball (even when West Indies won six Tests on the run, that batting figure only touched 30 and the bowling number was inflated to 55). Sammy, to his credit, knew this and often acknowledged the need to pull his weight. But he was neither a Test-class third seamer nor a No. 6 or 7 batsman.

The problem was also exacerbated by the fact that West Indies' best chance of bowling a side out twice in Tests now come from their spinners - at least until Kemar Roach is fit and able to bowl at 90mph again, even on the unforgiving Caribbean pitches, perhaps partnered by Jason Holder, Miguel Cummins or a revived Fidel Edwards.

Shillingford, now that he is cleared to resume his Test career after work to remodel his action for a second time, and Sunil Narine are set to form a twin spin attack against New Zealand next month. In their most recent Test, the Hamilton encounter, West Indies also fielded two spinners (Veerasammy Permaul partnered Narine) and it left Sammy sharing the new ball alongside Tino Best. Sammy was actually by far the better of the two seamers, but that was more an indictment of Best.

His decision to follow the sack with retirement, at the age of 30, is perhaps an acknowledgment that he never cracked Test cricket for a sustained period of time for all his effort and commitment. It is true that those two words should be prerequisites for international cricketers, but Sammy oozed them while some team-mates did not. There were also a few memorable performances sprinkled among the 38 appearances: 7 for 66 on debut against England, his maiden Test hundred against the same opposition in 2011, and a match-winning 5 for 29 against Pakistan in Providence.

However, ultimately, much like West Indies cricket for two decades now, the occasional spark of brilliance, the occasional victorious moment, was not enough to ever convince that the corner had been turned.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (May 13, 2014, 23:25 GMT)

what is troubling is that the WICB are aware of the reason/s why Sammy has and is unable to bowl faster. During his stint at the now defunct Shell Academy in Grenada, his bowling action was change from classical side-on to open chested.

In the process his shoulder was damaged and although the injury healed, the damage done confined him to bowling what many has termed trundlers.

Before the injury bowling with his classical side on action, Sammy was able to bowl at speeds in the high 80s, generating plenty of swing in the process.

Posted by Riddymon on (May 13, 2014, 14:11 GMT)

@VivGilchrist Same can be said about Pollard who's even bigger and bowls much slower. However, I've seen Sammy bowl 130+ on a few occasions. Maybe that's the speed where he's comfortable and has the most control. We get a bit obsessed with speed at times when sometimes control and placement is more important. Having said that...if he mastered swinging the ball, he would be extremely dangerous. That's something that I hope he works on. He was doing it during one of the previous Caribbean T20 tournaments and was very dangerous but he doesn't do it very often.

Posted by VivGilchrist on (May 13, 2014, 8:42 GMT)

Can someone tell me how a guy of his stature cannot bowl in excess of 120kph? Maybe the fact that he does not actually bend his back and put any effort into his delivery stride is the reason why he just didn't take enough wickets... His record for a no8 batsman were on par, but as a bowler, way below average.

Posted by tutorial on (May 13, 2014, 0:01 GMT)

WICB.give Sammy the assurance that he would never lost his spot in the team by making him captain in all formats, Sammy was never more than a t20 player, 50 overs and 4 dayers at the national level ( windward islands) and even that he would have to compete for his place in the team. What i don't understand is when fans are behaving as if he was a great icon,he is a nice guy and nice guys finish LAST. Sammy would constantly HIDE from bowling, his batting was all about slugging nothing refined. Rally_ windies comments make total sense and it keeps some of these FANATIC FANS in place, after all it is whats best for the team NOT YOUR COUNTRY. Ramdin have my support, WI.cricket cannot get any worst we are at the bottom,can only go upwards from here. People don't like him because of his little note to VIV.but that shows a sign of resilience and strenght which is needed for great captaincy, so i suggest you guys get over it and move on. Starting this test series we will see a more discipline.

Posted by T20Fun on (May 12, 2014, 12:12 GMT)

It is sad in so many ways.

We wish for cricketers with heart, with enthusiasm and an enjoyment for the game. We get a cricketer in Sammy who has all that and we tell him "sorry, you just didn't have the talent"! Give me 10 Sammys any day over one sleep-walking Carl Hooper!

Sammy is a man who literally bled West Indian cricket and yet he got all the criticism from former WI "greats" who would in the same tone bemoan the lack of "pride"!

Posted by   on (May 12, 2014, 4:00 GMT)

hey Sammy, you are a good man and leader with a love for the game. wish some of your other team mates, put aside their egos and played the game as enthusiastically as you did. as a follower of West Indian cricket, your stint as captain and player was enjoyable. my prayers and thoughts are with you. good luck with your future endeavors. Ramdin falls short as a leader. Proves how confused west indian cricket is at the moment.

Posted by   on (May 12, 2014, 3:56 GMT)

Sammy was a respectable but limited cricketer. Yes, he gave his all and occasionally excelled but in truth he was never a good enough player for Test level. I have written about this, and I hope this doesn't get deleted as spam.

I believe I say enough in the piece not to need to elaborate here, but comparisons to Brearley are inconsequential. Players need runs and wickets in today's game. Very good article by McGlashan and I think he nails it when speaking of the use of two spinners for some Tests. Giving Sammy the new ball was a poor move and accelerated his removal from the team.

Posted by prakash1708 on (May 12, 2014, 1:14 GMT)

my team for the first test against newzealand would be : brathwaite, gayle, darren bravo, pollard, chanderpaul, carter, ramdin, carlos brathwaite, shillingford, jerome taylor and delorn johnson. cummins and nurse would be the reserves. if gayle is not fit, his place should be taken by leon johnson, asad fudadin or kirk edwards.

Posted by Rally_Windies on (May 11, 2014, 23:08 GMT)

Chris Floyd ...

If I bowled only 15 overs per game at the tail ..

I could be a test bowler with an average of 21..not 28 !

Sammy does not BOWL at the top batsmen ... and he over works the other pacers......

Doenarine has a Test Bowling average better than Sammy BTW..... So does rampaul , taylor and roach ......

Deonarine should be the allrounder on the team ... he is a good enough off spinner .....(not narine and shilly level,,, but more than good enough, and he(doenarine) does take the wickets of top order batsmen )

Posted by Riddymon on (May 11, 2014, 18:41 GMT)

@Warren Viegas - And that's exactly the point. This man had a team that REPEATEDLY failed. Your top 4 or 5 bats are constantly getting out cheaply and your strike bowlers are expensive. How many times have we seen a test match where the the Windies have a score of 80/4...90/5...then you're expecting your number 8 batsman to come in and work miracles with the bat and then turn around be a 5th bowler that takes 5 wickets a match. Does that make sense? I totally agree that his stats were mediocre at best but at the same time...the position that he played as a batsman and his role as bowler should NOT require him to be making half centuries and hundreds or taking loads of wickets. He should have been building on the foundation that his top 5 gave and maintain pressure with the ball while the main bowlers take wickets. I feel like the inadequecies of the team as a whole have backfired but not only made him look a bad captain statswise but also expose his weaknesses a cricketer overall.

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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