A THORNY ISSUE – Monkey off Sammy’s back
Nobody in their right mind will object to the sun shining on Darren Sammy and his team at the moment.
They outmanoeuvred Pakistan on a deadly pitch and scored an emphatic victory.
It was a team effort but one individual needed it more than the others.
If ever a West Indies player needed a strong performance it was Darren Sammy. He was under the microscope from the first day of his captaincy simply because he never commanded a place in the Test team.
He was, in the eyes of pundits, the de facto captain by default after it appeared that former skipper Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo had ruled themselves out as options because they refused central contracts offered by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).
In essence, Sammy was the only man left standing, unless the board had opted for Trinidadian Darren Ganga,who like Sammy, could not command a play in the team but who many regard as an outstanding leader of men.
Coach Otis Gibson also said that the selectors weren’t left with much of a choice.
So Sammy it was, and realistically the onus was on him to prove to everybody he was capable of handling the job while contributing with bat and ball as an all-rounder.
This became even more important given that he was leading a team including seniors like Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, all of whom were previous captains.
The pressure to perform on all fronts had to be enormous especially in the recently held World Cup.
He failed on all fronts as the West Indies were eliminated in the quarter-finals.
The calls for his head mounted.
Even Chris Gayle in his recent verbal assault against the board in an interview on Klas FM in Jamaica, stated that Sammy wasn’t the right person to lead at this time.
The outspoken Gayle said there was always disagreement at team meetings about Sammy’s place because his presence affected the team balance.
To make matters worse he wasn’t contributing with runs nor wickets in the middle.
Coming home to face Pakistan, West Indies lost the lone Twenty20 and the One-Day International series.
There were renewed calls for the St Lucian to be axed. In fact, before the first Test in Guyana he seemed compelled to say he had no plans to resign unless asked to do so by those who appointed him in the first place.
He stood his ground and the rest is now history.
His bowling, in particular, was inspirational and his second innings five-wicket haul was one of the keys to the West Indies victory.
It couldn’t have come at a better time because it was their first in 17 Tests and the long drought had become so frustrating that the big crowds normally associated with Test cricket in a home series had declined significantly.
Guyana is a good guage of this because traditionally Guyanese have been among some of the most loyal supporters through thick and thin.
There wasn’t a full house on any day at the Guyana National Stadium in Providence.
Still, you would want to believe that the triumph in the first Test will see greater support for the West Indies for the second at Warner Park in St Kitts.
Not only that, Sammy will be feeling a lot more confident leading out his troops after his pivotal role in Guyana.
However, the mantra for him and the rest of the squad is that one swallow doesn’t make a summer.
They need to capitalise on the momentum gained from the first Test and keep the sun shining on West Indies cricket.
Andi Thornhill is sports editor at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation. Email [email protected]