Balanced Test team without Sammy
DARREN?JULIUS?GARVEY?SAMMY has served West Indies cricket well, but the time has come to move on and chart a new course.
Sammy, 30, fought the good fight both as a leader and a fierce competitor with bat and ball, but it was clear over the last year or so that he was a spent force in the Test arena, both as a player and captain.
On the ill-fated tours of India and New Zealand that sealed his fate, Sammy looked out of place and was clearly an underemployed bowling all-rounder.
He took just eight wickets in 2013 and had six single-digit scores in his last ten innings.
So will history’s pages be kind to Sammy?
It depends on who is writing them. Judged purely on statistical evidence, Sammy will be treated harshly.
He was a below par third seamer who had a first innings strike rate of a wicket every 94 balls and was the weak link in a four-man bowling attack. As a batsman he averaged 21 with one hundred in 38 Tests.
There were a few memorable performances: seven for 66 on debut in 2007 against England at Old Trafford, his maiden Test hundred against the same opposition at Trent Bridge in 2012, and a match-winning five for 29 against Pakistan in Providence in May, 2011.
Some historians will prefer to look at the value he brought to the side as a leader and a unifying force when he took over from Christopher Gayle in 2010. He brought passion, whole-hearted commitment and a never-say-die attitude. For fighting spirit and tenacity, Sammy gets an A grade.
In the January 8 edition of the MIDWEEK?NATION, I made the call for the then vice-captain Denesh Ramdin to be given the chance to lead the side and I am happy that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) have had the wisdom and foresight to entrust him with the leadership at this critical juncture of the regional game.
In his last 12 matches he has raised his game with three overseas hundreds and seems to be maturing.
Now 28 years old, he has the role of quietly transforming the side for the forthcoming home series against New Zealand and the tour to South Africa at year-end.
It would be unkind to expect Ramdin to change West Indies’ cricket fortunes overnight. The mire they are in is too deep for that. The right players have to be chosen with the right attitude by the right selectors who understand the right mix.
One thing’s for certain, now that Sammy has gone, the team will have a better balance. If a batting all-rounder is selected to bat at number six, we will face the Kiwis in a few weeks’ time with five bowlers, a luxury that was not possible with the presence of Sammy batting at number eight.
Dwayne Bravo is probably the most logical choice to bat at number six while others, notably Desmond Haynes, prefer the hard-hitting Keiron Pollard. Both are Trinidadians and, I suspect under the new dispensation, one of them will play sooner rather than later.
This is one of the most critical junctures in West Indies cricket and major decisions have to be made to take us forward, which means a change of personnel to the selection panel along with the leadership of the Test team.
Make no mistake about it, this West Indies side is moderate to poor but the truth is, the best possible teams have not been selected and a bad situation has been made worse.
Fans know that Sunil Narine should have gone to India, Veersammy Permaul is an ordinary spinner and should not be playing international cricket, Chadwick Walton does not merit a place in the one-day team and Narsingh Deonarine should not be in the Twenty20 squad.
Clyde Butts, Courtney Browne and Robert Haynes have earned a failing grade and should be part of any future layoffs.
So where does Sammy go from here? Clearly, he is best suited for the T20 and 50-over formats and he now has all the time in the world to concentrate on these pursuits now that his future in whites is at an end.
Once Sammy was relieved of the Test captaincy, his retirement from the longer format had become academic as there was no way he could make the team as a player.