Today’s dismissal of Darren Sammy as West Indies Test captain was inevitable.
In the results-driven world of sports, it essentially came down to a situation of whether the powers that be believed the fortunes of the regional side were likely to improve under Sammy, and whether he was good enough to command a spot in the Test team. Unfortunately, for Sammy at least, the answer was, as it has been for sometime, a resounding no.
But this young St Lucian is a class act, and leaves the helm of the Test side with his head held high. Not blessed with the natural ability or recognizable greatness of some who have worn the regional maroon before him, Sammy carried the pride and passion of representing West Indies cricket in every sinew of his being.
He breathed the intestinal character that his employers would have no doubt hoped that others with greater ability had demonstrated. Importantly, at a time of upheaval around the team, Sammy was very much a “board man”: someone who could be trusted, managed, and depended upon not to make unnecessary waves. The West Indies Cricket Board has felt comfortable with Sammy at the helm for the past four years and would have thought long and hard about chopping “its man”.
But regional cricket is not about the board and the machinations that often go on behind closed doors. This summer game is primarily about the people of the Caribbean and their expectations from their cricketing heroes. And not even the most ardent supporter of Sammy, from Vieux Fort in St Lucia’s south to Gros Islet in the north, could with a straight face state that a batting average of under 22 and a bowling average of over 34 were deserving of a guaranteed place in the Test team.
Sammy’s captaincy provided stability to the extent that the War Games of the Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan era disappeared as the WICB regained the control of the players that had been yanked from their grasp by WIPA’s Dinanath Ramnarine. Sammy spoke a language the WICB appreciated.
Consistent personal performances and an improvement in West Indies’ fortunes would have been the icing on the cake and possibly make Sammy captain emeritus. But it never happened past the rhetoric. And therein rests the reason for Sammy’s demise.
For all his good intentions, passion, pride and commitment, he simply has never been one of the 11 best players to be honoured by taking the field to represent millions of discerning West Indians in the exacting arena that is Test cricket. Most West Indians might love the affable 30-year-old, but losing hurts and the record will show that for all his stated qualities, the regional side continued to lose heavily under his leadership in Test cricket.
Victories over minnows such as Bangladesh and Zimbabwe provided little comfort for the embarrassment endured against greater foes such as India, New Zealand and England.
Some in academia have used verbal acrobatics and flowery nothingness in a failed effort to compare Sammy’s tenure and impact to that of the likes of Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Frank Worrell and Clive Lloyd. That agenda is understandable. But the effort has also provided students of English with examples of hyperbole gone wild.
Sammy’s departure and the promotion of new Test captain Denesh Ramdin will not necessarily mean improved results. But action had to be taken. We welcome Sammy’s continued leadership of the Twenty20 side, for which he is eminently suited. And, we give our full support to his successor in the Test arena.