• Today
    January 21

  • 02:47 PM

Sammy's our Samson

Sir Hilary Beckles,

Added 01 June 2012


I return, finally, to the metaphoric images society constructs around West Indian cricket captains. Recent comments from former captains about the role and function of captain Darren Sammy have provoked this reflection. Jimmy Adams spoke eloquently while offering his support of the skipper. Adams’ intervention rests upon an image society holds of him; he is “Jimmy The Gent”, a social perception rooted in reason. Courtney Walsh also spoke in support. Everywhere the image of captain Walsh is uniform; he is “Ambassador Walsh”. These are interesting images, forged in the imagination of a Caribbean public that scrutinizes actions and ideas, methods and manners. Society has also settled, finally, upon captain Chanderpaul. For a fleeting moment he was on the road to being more Saul than Paul, but after a trip to Delhi he paused, rediscovered his cause, and is now canonized as St Paul, philosopher king of the crease, patron saint of stamina and the spirit of sustainability. Sarwan’s sojourn as captain has been a flash in the pan, not long enough for image formation, but his semester in Leicester has reopened the discourse to the imagination. And finally, there is the rapidly emerging image of captain Sammy. Series after series, and match after match, we hear of Sammy as the Samson of West Indies cricket, a man whose strength is seen, respected and celebrated. While George Headley had attracted the  image of “Atlas” for carrying the West Indies team on his back for near two decades after 1929, Sammy’s enormous mental power and physical stamina have set him apart as the Samson figure who dwarfs those he has succeeded. It required no academic ammunition to theorize why in the first place Sammy was chosen for the role of leader. He was neither a star batsman nor a star bowler. His performance with bat and ball was indeed nothing to shout about. But there was something else, more important at the moment, more valuable than Guyana gold, that was required. It was the mind of a leader within the context of West Indian development. Sammy’s mind and mentality were more valuable than any runs or wickets. The ship needed an admiral. Both the diligent and the negligent could see that it was a masterstroke in strategic planning, an indigenous stroke, so to speak, that confirms our ability to think beyond the noise on the surface. The heart and mind of West Indies cricket were in need of rebuilding. The image of the captaincy and the intellectual values that supported it had fallen to such a low level that the world feared for the sustainability of the magnificent thing called West Indies cricket. The decline of the development mind that had hitherto characterized the West Indies game, forged in the fires of Babylon, had resulted in the worst display of backwardness imaginable in the islands. A team, once the world standard for professionalism, became a collection of supercool dudes, dumb and deaf to reason, and easily defeated in two days of the allotted five. The enterprise of West Indies cricket had crashed. It was out of this depth of leadership despair, following the abandonment of ship on the Bangledesh tour, that the Reifer-Sammy paradigm emerged. Reifer rose to the occasion and reconnected the image of the captaincy to its historic roots. Against Bangledesh and in South Africa, the contrast Reifer represented was striking. Sammy, his vice-captain, witnessed the wish for a return to sanity. He took over the reins and continued with the project of rebuilding the image of the captaincy, restoring the values of leadership, and reconnecting to the heart and mind of West Indies cricket. The madness was arrested and put away. Sammy the Samson has not looked back. He is the mighty warrior for professionalism, ambassador for leadership, and the symbol of a West Indies strategic reaction to decline and despair; all evidence that a mind is at work in the affairs of West Indies cricket. It has been a successful counter-revolution. Full praise should be allocated first to the Reifer response. Captain Sammy has removed the ship out of shallow, threatening waters, and taken it out on the high seas, pointing it in the direction of its highest destiny, the return to the glory from whence it came. We are comforted in the commanding consciousness of Sammy. It is now for the skilled youngsters to shine with bat and ball so that when his role of leadership resurrection is completed he can walk away tall that he had answered the call. • Sir Hilary Beckles is principal of the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies and a WICB director.


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