Sammy: I’ll lift West Indies

Darren Sammy never dreamed of being
the West Indies captain. He once said his goal was to be the workhorse of the
side. Yet after playing only eight Tests, he has been catapulted to the
forefront in a time of upheaval and change, with a tough tour of Sri Lanka on
the horizon, but none of this appears to faze him.

“I am going to be bold and frank,”
Sammy said. “I will let the players know what I expect and I, myself, will set
an example. I will bring out the passion, the energy, and the commitment to
West Indies cricket.”

Sammy was given the captaincy after
Chris Gayle, and vice-captain Dwayne Bravo chose not to sign central contracts
last month. The pair, along with Kieron Pollard, have forged lucrative Twenty20
careers in domestic tournaments, including the Indian Premier League and
refused West Indies board contracts which stipulated that they must make
themselves available for the West Indies team at all times.

The selectors decided it was
important to have a captain who wanted to make that commitment and placed Sammy
and the Australian-born batsman Brendan Nash in charge of the Test squad until
the end of the 2011 home series, ending Gayle’s three-year period at the helm
of the team. Gayle and Bravo are in the squad that is headed to Sri Lanka, and
Sammy is confident of having his former captain’s support.

“Ever since I started my career in
2004, Chris has been the one who has made me feel comfortable. I have a good
relationship with him, and with most of the players. He has said he will give
me and the team his full support, which I know he means.”

Sammy doesn’t feel any pressure to
justify his place despite not being a regular member of the Test squad since he
marked his Test debut in 2007 with 7 for 66 at Old Trafford. Since then he has
been in and out of the side, averaging 19.40 with the bat and 27.74 with the
ball. “I have full confidence in my ability. When I have been given the opportunity
to play Test cricket, my stats show that I have done well.”

West Indies have slipped to seventh
place in the International Cricket Council Test rankings and eighth in the ODI
chart and the 26-year-old St. Lucian obviously, is keen to lead the side back
up the table. To do this he talks about thinking clearly on the field and executing
properly, about doing the right things. But most of all, he talks about playing
with pride and passion – something West Indies teams of recent vintage have
often lacked.

“I vow to represent the West Indies
with pride and dignity. Whatever we do, whether we are fielding, batting or
bowling, you do with pride.”

He realises this is no overnight
task, that West Indies are in a rebuilding phase, and the Sri Lanka tour is
merely the first step in what will be a long journey back to prominence. He
remains optimistic though, that everyone is on the same page. “It will take a
strong work ethic and discipline to get us there. We have to work as a team. We
have to enjoy what we do. When we do that, and when we play well, it brings
lots of smiles to the Caribbean people.”

Sammy is acutely aware of the
heritage of West Indies cricket and the responsibility of the current
generation to live up to it. “I am taking on a mountain that carries so many
legacies and I will also remind the guys of the great legacy that we carry.” He
talks about the honour of following in the footsteps of Frank Worrell, Garfield
Sobers, Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards as the captain of the side. Sammy’s
comments are in contrast to Gayle’s, who has said more than once that he does
not want to be captain and that he wouldn’t be sad if Test cricket were to disappear.

Sammy plans to pick the brains of
Lloyd and Richards, as well as senior players in the current team, to help him
become a better captain. However, he makes it clear he will ultimately be his
own man.

His expectations for the tour of
Sri Lanka are simple – to be competitive. The squad contains a lot of new faces
and he cites Shivnarine Chanderpaul as someone who sets “an excellent example”
as a batsman and a cricketer that newcomers can look up to. Gayle is another
player he feels can inspire the youngsters in the squad. Although Sulieman Benn
will miss the first Test due to suspension, Sammy is confident the team has the
bowling resources to trouble the Sri Lankan batsman.

But beyond the mathematics of wins
and losses, Sammy wants to put the smiles back on the faces of West Indies
fans. He wants to make them feel the same way he felt when he first started
watching cricket with his father. “That’s what Darren Sammy wants to do. Bring
back the joy.”