Time has come for Sammy
Darren Sammy shouldn’t wait for the axe to fall again.
Already displaced at the helm of the West Indies side in One-Day International cricket, the four comprehensive defeats in five Test matches (it would have been five in five but for Darren Bravo’s double-century and rain in the final session in Dunedin) spanning the India pappyshow and the New Zealand debacle over the past seven weeks essentially confirm that the genial man from St Lucia is incapable of taking the team any further in the traditional format.
Not that his removal as captain will automatically bring about an improvement in team performance. Our experience of the past 18 years, where there have been ten different Test captains – including Brian Lara on three separate occasions – suggests that the challenges facing West Indies cricket go way beyond the personality in charge of the team on the field of play.
Yet it has to be acknowledged that, purely from a leadership perspective, Sammy has given his all. When Chris Gayle and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were playing the fool in the aftermath of the 2011 World Cup, the St Lucian all-rounder held the team together and there were a few small, encouraging steps forward.
As a lightning rod for public disaffection, especially here where his presence as captain is seen as an obvious impediment to the resumption of Dwayne Bravo’s Test career, it has been the easiest thing in the world to go after Sammy with gusto and conveniently ignore the fact that almost all (Gayle is the notable exception) who preceded him as captain, going back to Courtney Walsh in 1996, tasted Test defeat far more often than success.
No-one with any real appreciation of the game would have gotten carried away with the six consecutive Test match victories under his stewardship between July 2012 and last March against New Zealand, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Yet the innings defeats in India, both inside three days, followed by another three-day innings loss at Wellington and an eight-wicket whipping in the final match in Hamilton showed Sammy to be completely out of his depth in seeking to keep the West Indies competitive against much tougher opponents.
Of course, it goes without saying that his own returns as a player (1,323 runs at 21.68 and 84 wickets at 35.79) over 38 Tests are barely worthy of the classification “all-rounder” at international level. Not that Dwayne Bravo’s numbers (2,200 runs at 31.42 and 86 wickets at 39.83) in 40 Tests constitute a huge improvement. It can be argued though that Bravo should at least have the opportunity to prove whether or not he can be of consistently greater value in the game’s protracted format.
In a part of the world where public officials cling desperately to their cherished positions come hell or high water, Sammy would be swimming against that distressing tide in opting to resign from the captaincy. Of course, it is more than likely that such a decision could also spell the end of his Test career, one that started in an unexpected burst of glory when he claimed seven for 66 with his medium-pacers in the second innings of his debut match against England in Manchester in 2007.
But part of being a true leader is recognising your own limitations and knowing when the time has arrived to pass the responsibility on to someone else. After the team’s abysmal showings in India and New Zealand, that time has come for the man from Micoud who celebrated his 30th birthday only last Friday.
In any event, there is no doubt that he will be retained as skipper for the defence of the World T20 title in Bangladesh next March while the various facets of his game should keep him in the picture for ODIs, especially in the countdown to the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Sammy has also proven his worth in a first year with the Indian Premier League franchise Sunrisers Hyderabad, and while the inaugural season of the St Lucia Zouks in the Caribbean Premier League was one he would obviously like to forget, his combination of explosive hitting, disciplined bowling and brilliant fielding and catching clearly identify him as an asset in cricket’s shortest format.
So if not Darren Sammy as West Indies captain, who then to take up the poisoned chalice?
First-choice wicketkeeper and former West Indies under-19 skipper Denesh Ramdin has gotten a mention, notwithstanding the “Yeah Viv, Talk Nah” stupidness of last year’s England tour and this year’s cheating issue against Pakistan in the Champions Trophy, also in England. Former West Indies fast bowler Tony Gray is endorsing Kieron Pollard, who has yet to play a Test, for what he describes as an “outside the box” selection.
But what about Kirk Edwards, who led Barbados to the regional first-class title this past season? Back in the West Indies side due to the latest Gayle injury, he notched a couple of half-centuries in New Zealand, although a final series average of 26 is very much in keeping with the prevailing trend of regional batting mediocrity.
Apparently he’s perceived by some in Bimshire cricket circles as an arrogant so-and-so, doesn’t get along with some of his own Bajan players and has rubbed many in the media the wrong way. Yet for all that, he appears to be result-oriented and is more concerned with performance than public relations.
Sammy has done the best he could. Now it’s time to try someone else.