Since the passage of the glory days of the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, Caribbean cricket lovers have had more periods of anguish than joy.
They have watched as their beloved West Indies team added face to the expression:”Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory”.
They suffered quietly as their cricketing sons became the laughing stock of nations they once dominated, and who publicly bemoaned the drop in regional standards, but privately rubbed their hands in glee at the acute change of the guard.
Caribbean people might not burn effigies, fire-bomb homes or call for Jihad on their cricketers, but our pain has been no less than is to be found in the bosoms of our Asian colleagues who also fall on hard times occasionally.
Now, there is time for rejoicing.
West Indies are the best in the world again, not specifically at the great summer game, but at its shortest version. We are the champions. And at the forefront of that success is a young man who first saw the light of day in the tiny Caribbean village of Micoud just under 29 years ago. We will not seek to ascend into the realms of hyperbole or to speak the deliberate language of the West Indies Cricket Board by comparing Darren Julius Garvey Sammy to the late great Sir Frank Worrell, Clive Lloyd or Sir Vivian Richards. What we will do, however, is to suggest that the installation of St. Lucia’s now famous son into regional cricket’s greatest office has been vindicated.
The young man has had his detractors and when the euphoria of Sunday’s victory at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka, has abated, he is sure to receive more strident criticisms. Such is the nature of man. There are those who openly state that sharing his birthplace with WICB president Dr. Julian Hunte and the board’s former chief executive officer Dr. Ernest Hillaire has not hurt his opportunity for swift elevation into our cricket hierarchy. There are many, including former cricketing icons, who openly remark that Sammy neither bats nor bowls well enough to be a member of the regional team, far less its captain. Their comments tend to have one noticeable thread – they all ignore the importance of the sound, committed leadership of men.
At a time when leadership is often the bugbear of many of our institutions, whether health, economic or political, we cannot afford to ignore effective leadership wherever it is found. Whether it be located in Micoud, Montego Bay or Market Hill.
Since the ICC World Cup victory of 1979 and then the ICC Champions League triumph of 2004, both in England, the heartbeat of these islands has been placed in the hands of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Christopher Gayle. These are all faithful servants of West Indies cricket, palpably more talented than the man from Micoud, but they achieved little during their tenure. Talent does not always equate to an ability to lead.
So let us praise Sammy and his band of wonderful ambassadors for their great achievement, fully cognisant of the fact that in the final analysis their true mettle must be proven in the more exacting arena of Test cricket. But, by his achievement, Sammy deserves to be the general of the islands, not above criticism, but surely not deserving of insular vilification.
Jesus Christ came to mankind to be crucified to save us from our sins, we are told. Sammy is no deity, but over the past two and a half weeks, and especially about 1.15 p.m. on Sunday, his leadership saved us from another exercise in futility on the world stage. And he did it bearing the heavy cross of Caribbean expectations.