The smothering of Sammy
Street and Media Talk in the Caribbean showed an undercurrent that Darren Sammy's tenure of the captaincy of the West Indies has at best been precarious. Recently, the ebullient all-rounder was relieved of the leadership of the ODI team and only a few days ago the force of disfavour escalated to the point where the captaincy of the Test team has also been withdrawn. All Sammy is now left to call his own is the T20 team– and even this may be balancing on a knife edge. Anyway, it is the format of the game in which West Indies is currently most successful. One concedes Sammy to have only very grudgingly been tolerated– by no means accepted– as an interim leader. And it was only a matter of time before the two Trinidadians in the elder Bravo and Dinesh Ramdin were pushed into the respective appointments.
The job of captaincy of the West Indies is fraught with extreme risk, as evidenced by the lengthy catalogue of men in the post after Sir Viv Richards. We have had Ritchie Richardson, Jimmy Adams, Carl Hooper, Shiv Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle, Brian Lara and Courtney Walsh, seven (not necessarily in that order) coming and going– before the advent of Darren Sammy. Nobody has tried harder than Sammy to make a success of it. Maybe he has not tried as intelligently as he might have, but he cannot be faulted for a lack of diplomatic diligence.
Sir Frank Worrell stands out as the very best diplomat par excellence. He captained West Indies for three Test series and succeeded in transforming the Caribbean team from a fragmented group of talented individuals into a solid fighting force, paving the way for his successors Sir Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Richards to climb atop the world of international cricket. Let us look at the bare figures achieved by Worrell In the area of batting by the West Indies.
When he took over the captaincy from Gerry Alexander the West Indies posted scores of 453 and 281; 183 and 233; 239 and 326, 393 and 432, and 292 and 321 in the five Tests in Australia in 1960/61. The first Test was then the only tied result in international cricket. Australia won the second. West Indies took the third. The fourth was drawn and Australia snatched the final Test for a 2-1 series win. All that under the daunting mitigation of Australian home umpiring.
In the 1962 tour to the Caribbean by India, West Indies recorded scores of 289 and 15 without loss; 631; 475; 444 for 9 declared and 176 for 3; and 253 and 283 to celebrate five– nil shutout of the visitors. It was the first complete shutout by West Indies in a full series.
In 1963 West Indies availed Worrell of a beautiful farewell by crafting totals of 501 for 6 declared and 1 without loss; 301 and 229; 186 and 91; 397 and 229; and 246 and 255 for 2 snuff out England in England by 3 matches to 1.
Batting has been pinpointed to show the kind of support Worrell received from his men. On the Australian tour Sir Conrad Hunte aggregated 377 and 471 in England; Rohan Kanhai chalked up 503 in Australia, 495 against India and 497 against England; Sir Gary Sobers belted 430, 424 and 322; Joe Solomon 250, 148 and 204; Easton Mac Morris hit 439 against India and Basil Butcher 383 in England. So, the batting proved to be in very good hands. Also, Worrell himself pulled his weight with 375 runs in Australia, 322 against India and 142 against England.
Reason for one- sidedly focusing on the batting is urged by the fact that the West Indies under Sammy has suffered palpably through its seriously impoverished under performances with the bat. At long last Joffrey Dujon, former West Indies wicketkeeper has been frank enough to infer that several other players in the present day Test team should be under scrutiny for dismissal for lamentably poor batting. Only Chanderpaul can escape indictment in this regard. Others have tended to produce a single creditable score and seem to regard it as insurance for a place in the side for a foreseeable future.
Grave incidence of anaemic scores has inclined one to believe there has been a movement afoot to undermine Sammy's results in the captaincy. Sammy has had a character flaw of too kind a gentlemanly spirit hindering him from roundly castigating his top batsmen for gross underperformance. Too often he has softened his rebukes by lamely suggesting a much vaunted return to the drawing board for the resolve to stiffen some rather spineless batting.
My advocacy for appointment of Sammy in the captaincy has by no means weakened into regret of any kind. What has bothered me has been his failure to diagnose his position as to the extreme usefulness in accepting the need to put desired metal into his own batting. After all, in a case where West Indies habitually displayed danger of losing against the better international sides in three and a half to four days Sammy ought to have given far more than token belief in the need to shore up his batting average by buckling down to spending far more time in the middle.
Darren Sammy, though not really a specialist batsman, cannot convince me that the lone century scored against England may be reliably acclaimed as the best he could have done for himself. When he played here against Australia he disappointed sorely by not tempering his all-out belligerence in order to more appropriately buckle down to the sober needs of manufacturing a victory against the Aussies. Time was not a factor and he had a more than willing partner in Shane Shillingford, albeit the last man.
A leaf taken out of the book of Shiv Chanderpaul would have seen Sammy investing in the acquisition of a bowling machine. Actually many a business company would need little persuasion to contribute to such a device. All that's needed to complete the package as an aid to shoring up his batting is a canvas canopy to protect against inclement weather. Whether or not Sammy reflects upon the insanity of insularity, the gross ugliness of this trait exists and is never likely to disappear. The outgoing Test captain is too much a man to allow an unscrupulous mentality on the part of some others to marginalize him. Cricket is very much a business and the balance sheet disappears when the capital dissipates — and that is runs under your belt. I wish Sammy all the luck he needs.