Darren Sammy has never pretended being a great cricketer.
He is never going to score 20 Test centuries and he wont take 250 Test wickets, but what he does bring to the table is an intangible quality that the West Indies lacked over the last decade or so; something that in the long run is proving to be more valuable than runs or wickets.
Ever since he was appointed captain of the West Indies in October 2010, Sammy has been the object of ridicule across the region. People have said he is not good enough a player, that he doesn’t deserve his place on the team, that he is not a Test cricketer, that he doesn’t do enough with either bat or ball and the list goes on an on. However, despite the criticism that is in part fueled by the general hatred of the West Indies Cricket Board and its immediate past CEO Ernest Hilaire, who is from Sammy’s home country of St. Lucia, Sammy has continued to lead the West Indies with pride.
Sammy has more Test wins than any other West Indies captain in the past decade, and his One Day International record isn’t bad either. His T20 resume is now impeccable as he has become the most successful T20 captain in West Indies history with the World T20 title under his belt. It is the West Indies’ first world title since the Prudential World Cup in 1979 and first piece of silverware since the Champions Trophy win at Lords in 2004.
Winning the World T20 is one thing, but to see how Sammy marshaled his troops, especially in the semi-finals and finals against perhaps the two toughest opponents – Australia and home team and hosts Sri Lanka – was to witness evidence of his growth as a captain. Almost every move worked to perfection against Australia in the semi-final and against Sri Lanka in the final, after the West Indies managed to muster 137 runs off their 20 overs, Sammy never showed any signs of despondency. In fact, it was his 26 runs from 15 balls that helped the Windies maintain momentum following the dismissal of Marlon Samuels whose masterclass performance rescued the West Indies’ innings that seemed lost at 87 for 5.
He took whatever little fight was left and honed it into a battering ram that the Windies used to mow down a Sri Lankan team that seemed destined for victory. It is something that truly objective observers of the West Indies over the past two years have witnessed with the West Indies under Sammy’s leadership; that never-say-die attitude that we only saw glimpses of in previous years.
Sammy has also been accused of ‘hiding’ behind his bowlers, but in the finals when it was critical for the Windies to get in some good quality overs in the middle of the Sri Lankan run chase, he came on and took two wickets for six runs to help his team press home the advantage.
The debate will rage on over the years about whether the first St Lucian ever to play for the West Indies will maintain a place in the team, but remember this. When Chris Gayle, a man on whom the team depends a lot, failed against Sri Lanka as he is wont do to, it was Sammy, Samuels and everyone else who pulled together to get the win. Gayle showed great leadership qualities calming Rampaul down after he was carted for 20-odd runs as the West Indies inched closer to victory, but at the end of the day it was Sammy who was the glue that held the team together until that last ball was bowled.