The ‘Lamb’ can defeat the dragon, just in the same way that David defeated Goliath, the giant warrior of the Philistines.
This ‘Lamb’ given to lead the West Indies cricket team is hardly on the field yet but critics, detractors and even those would-be pretenders of the science of the game continue to play a tango about Darren Sammy that is totally out of tune with reality.
Today we are in a new era of cricketing successes and failures; exploits that are either achieved on the field or in the dressing rooms. As often as we eat we serve-up diabolical criticisms that continue to affect our team.
Some of us may have forgotten that when Sammy was first named as captain, someone with probably insular feelings remarked, Sammy who? That tell-tale statement is probably not lost on certain key figures in the bigger territories of the region. Whatever the reasons the ‘St Lucia lamb’ is seen as a sacrifice in the kingdom of cricket that has been dominated by Australia and England, except when West Indies were at the helm under Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards. These men inherited the legacy of the deceased, Sir Frank Worrell who prophetically stated that the administrators of cricket in the region would have to look to the smaller islands for their future players. Let me just name a few that have made the statement true: Grayson Shilingford, Irving Shillingford, Norbert Phillip, Andy Roberts, Derryck Parry, Mike Findlay, Winston Davis, Ian Allen, Junior Murray and up until then none came from St Lucia. Some of us are familiar with such names as Bobby Simpson, Keith Stackpole, Brian Statham, Martin Crowe, Richard Hadlee, Tom Graveney, Freddie Truman, Tony Lock and Sunil Gavaskar. No doubt there may be some current players in the region who are not even aware of such names in international cricket, far less, a Barry Richards or Roy Gilchrist and Collie Smith.
The tide has changed and the caliber of players from our region have not benefited from the type of exposure that the former were fortunate to encounter in their day. Those players, some of whom have gone to their rest, were in a class that leaves no comparison with the top ones we see today. Worrell at the helm of his captaincy once said of an injured Gary Sobers, “I could spare ‘Sobers’ the batsman or the bowler, but not Sobers the fieldsman.” As far as fielding is concerned Sammy is in that league.
In the current West Indies team no other fieldsman matches the performances of Sammy who can field anywhere, same as Shivnarine Chanderpaul who bats anywhere in the top or lower order on the team.
Several factors have been responsible for the decline in West Indies cricket standards, as also an element that apparently has not been examined critically enough by persons closely connected with the game. Someone may have been looking for a model that would make or create a captain with the attributes of either of the past successful captains who in their lives were not new to leadership skills before their appointments, unlike Sammy who was pushed in and had to learn fast and at the same time try to hold his place in the team. It is difficult to stand up under such pressure, yet he has done it amidst snide remarks from unexpected quarters.
I need not mention here the names of the prominent ex-players who have endorsed ‘captaincy. This is a trusted barometer to gage the standing rules in Sammy’s leadership. Yes, some weak chinks are observable but they have not been responsible for the team’s losses.
Analytically, one needs to look at the factors that lead to decline in individual performances along with team successes and failures. To begin with, ninety percent of the present crop of players are semi-professionals, unlike their counterparts in the bigger countries, while they are also selected from the smallest groupings of players on the international level.
The instructiveness on the making of a successful cricket captain has not become a trademark of our cricket. The former players especially from England, Australia and South Africa and sometimes India have been extracted from a class of people with instinctive leadership qualities that made them stand out from among the rest. Understandably, cricket is more a mind game than what is seen by the spectator who clamours for exciting shots, good running between the wickets, incisive bowling and dramatic fielding.
Energy, inspiration, instructiveness and bold decisions were the hallmark of cricket captaincy in the 30’s to the mid-eighties and players and followers of the game expected the captains to show those qualities.
Visible evidences of perpetual changes may have started with the Kapil Dev’s, Sobers, Hadlees, Learie Constantine’s, Keith Boyce, Collis King and the seeming less energetic Jacques Kallis.
Our golden boy, Sammy, needs greater levelheadedness to prove his critics wrong. This can only be done successfully if he would stamp a personality that could in less dramatic ways let his players know that he is on top of it by calm directions that could instill confidence in the players at all levels of the game.
The pragmatic approaches used by Richards and the suave psychological techniques of Lloyd could form a marvelous combination that would produce immense results, but the people of the region must build that platform for the West Indies cricket captain to access.
Few proponents of the game in the region want to admit that this is probably the weakest West Indies cricket team in the history of the game and no one can be assured that any of the previous captains could have done better. This is not a comparison between the former and current, but a clinical analysis of the out performance of a team that ruled the international scene for fifteen years. We have no Haynes and Greenidge for starters, neither a Roy Fredericks or Lawrence Rowe. The capacity to perform as the previous players is not beyond the present day players, the differences are rooted in hard practice and total commitment for honour and not for dollar. Just ask this question, how did a seemingly unknown player as “Sammy” emerge to be thrust at the helm so quickly.
We must have more confidence in the capability of this player.
The centuries and double centuries scored by other players in the world were not done without another batsman at the other end. When Sobers broke
Len Hutton’s world-class score of 364 he had his cousin, David Holford at the other end and when Brian Lara surpassed Sobers 365 not out in Antigua, he too had another batsman who anchored the innings at the other end. None other than Chanderpaul.
The tied Third ODI at the Arnos Vale Cricket Ground in St Vincent boils down to levelheadedness which was not displayed by the non-striker at the time. It was not a phenomenon because that is what has prevented the team from having greater success against their opponents.
They must learn to disregard the panic button and put on the helmet of levelheadedness for the rest of the Australian tour.
There are inherent weaknesses all players, captains are no exception, but when a captain is leading a team of highly professional players they know what is expected of them and therefore the captain will have fewer problems than one like the current West Indies team.
Everyone knows that catches win watches, but in the 50’s and 60’s the player who dropped a catch would face an acid tongue from his captain on the field. Outstanding performances from individual players can turn the fortunes of team into a winning mode, but at the end the accolade is given to the captain if the team wins the match.
In 1993 two amazing bowling figures produced by two great fast bowlers told a story with figures of 9 overs,4 maidens,15 runs, 6 wickets by Colin Croft against England and Courtney Walsh with 9 overs, 2 maidens, 16 runs and 4 wickets against Pakistan.
Soon enough if the West Indies team does not improve its performances, Bangladesh will overtake us in the ICC rankings. By their examples in the Asia Tri-Series ODI, 2012 they played wonderful cricket and it shows that they are improving with each match they play.
In reality, one man does not always win match, except where there a singular performance that turned the tables around, yet it depends on the support received whether in bowling or batting.
Let us therefore get the monkey off the back of Sammy so that he can produce a different mindset in his quest for success against ‘the dragon’ of international cricket—the Aussies.
I for one still believe that the ‘Lamb’ can win.
—Hervan Henry, former sport commentator