Jun 25, 2011 Sports
Skipper not fazed by criticisms
By Sean Devers in Jamaica
In association withDigicel,
Western Union,Queensway &
As West Indies Captain Darren Sammy walked out to bat at Sabina Park with West Indies 150-6 needing 326 to beat India, sections of the crowd heckled him.
“You a fool, fool Captain Sammy…ya nah mek no runs” a man shouted from the stands, prompting others to join in.
This was not unexpected in Jamaica, the home of the controversially sacked Chris Gayle. When Rahul Dravid, dropped on six by Sammy, reached his century the fans were at Sammy again.
This is the pressure Sammy, the only St Lucian to play International cricket, has to overcome since taking over the Captaincy after Gayle and Dwayne Bravo disqualified themselves and Ramnaresh Sarwan was not even selected in the team.
The 27-year-old was not an automatic Test pick before his appointment but provided value to the ODI and T20 teams with his steady medium pace and aggressive batting.
Although he refuses to publically admit it, the pressure of the position, the rift between the board and its senior players and the public outcry that he is only in the Test team because he is the captain, seems to be affecting Sammy’s performance and confidence.
Sammy’s limited overs showing has dipped while he is yet to score a Test half-century and averages 11 with just 114 runs from six Tests as Skipper.
As a bowler he has done better. Although 12 of his Test wickets have come against Bangladesh and 10 against a depleted Pakistan batting, he has captured 16 wickets from his six Tests in charge including 5-29 when he exploited a treacherous Guyana pitch to help West Indies beat Pakistan.
Sammy has picked up wickets and the statistics will show that since his 7-66 on debut against England in 2007, he has taken three five-wicket hauls and 43 wickets from 14 Tests is not bad. His Test bowling stats could suggest that he is a greater bowler than he is. Sammy is not as talented or fast as most of the pacers who have played for the West Indies, even the present crop of Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards and Andre Russell.
But few will deny that even in his role as stock bowler he has managed to take wickets when others with more pace, have failed. He is not a great supporter of WIPA and is viewed by some (along with Coach Ottis Gibson) as the WICB’s ‘inside’ man.
Although Sammy’s Windward Islands is the only Regional team without a First-Class title and his success as Captain is not great, the West Indies Skipper cannot be faulted for commitment, passion, loyalty and his ability to work hard.
With the more senior players unavailable for various reasons, Sammy was given the job but the ‘poisoned chalice’ of West Indies cricket is destroying a promising career, especially in limited overs cricket, where he has two ODIs and a T20 fifty.
“To say that Sammy is not a popular man in the West Indies would be an understatement. Debate over his place in the Test side has filled radio waves; callers have been after his head. And on the second day in Kingston, to make matters worse, he dropped Rahul Dravid when he was on six. Dravid went on to make 112,” observed Indian journalist Sriram Veera.
Although it was the batsmen’s fault that the West Indies lost the opening Test, every defeat puts more pressure on Sammy’s Captaincy and his manner of dismissals (even more than his string of low scores) have become frustrating to those who watched West Indies dominate the world with consummate ease for nearly two decades from the late 1970s.
Sammy batted as he was in a T20 match before going for 25 as West Indies slipped to defeat on Thursday. Even those sympathetic to Sammy questioned his shot selection in Test cricket.
The Skipper is rolling with the punches and from his response to questions about his place in the team and retirement, he appears almost numb from the constant banging from the critics. Does what the public think affect him?
“When I am out on the field I don’t hear the crowd; I block everything around me. I have a job to do as a captain, to make field placements and changes, and I try not to take on what’s said from outside. And obviously I try to put in a [good] performance.
My job was to bowl lots of dot balls and restrict the scoring. And the attacking bowlers try to get the wickets. On some days fortunately I get wickets, some, I don’t,” Sammy says.
He is a positive person who uses stumbling blocks as steeping stones “When you know your back is always against the wall out there in public, you either use it as motivation or you fall down and die.
I use it as a motivation. I don’t view the comments from the crowd as nasty. If it’s naughty I laugh.
Those who encourage and those who discourage … I take it as a positive.” Sammy added.
The Skipper again lamented the poor batting of the top order. “We should have batted much better here.
The batting has been problem for number of years.
As long as we can get the batting side of things correct, and I stop dropping these catches, we should be all right,” Sammy said after Thursday’s defeat.
Many feel Sammy’s pain and say he should not be crucified for accepting the responsibility of leading a failing team since he is trying his best and did not appoint himself Captain.
“I believe that we are putting too much blame on one person (Captain). He did not appoint himself as Captain.
It was a job that was bestowed upon on him and I think the guy is doing a good job with the limited resources he has to work with. Cricket is a team game and requires all individuals to perform in all department of the game.
The bowlers took twenty wickets. They did their job. However, the batting letting us down big time,” said former Windward Islands and West Indies Test pacer Cameron Cuffy.
The 41-year-old Cuffy who took 43 wickets from 15 Tests between 1994 and 2002 is hopeful things will get better for Sammy and the team.
“I am happy that Sammy took a few wickets to restrict India to an achievable target.
Looking back at previous series against Pakistan we saw that the bowling is doing well. However, we are struggling to make 200. How can you win a test match if we can’t score runs?” the former pacer concluded.
It is understood the relationship between Gayle and the WICB could be improving and the destructive opener could even be back before this series is over. That could be good news for those like Cuffy who want to see better totals.
But while Gayle’s return should strengthen the chances of West Indies winning, it could also weaken Sammy’s authority in his team since many of the players look up to Gayle.
Sammy’s toughest days could still be ahead of him but one thing he does not do is quit.
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