Darren Sammy was appointed West Indies captain until the end of the current season. He looks back at his stint thus far, the criticism that has come with it, and the way forward
Interview by Sriram Veera
Darren Sammy has been at the receiving end of criticism from various quarters since the time he took over as West Indies captain. A disappointing World Cup campaign apart, his side did manage a drawn series in Sri Lanka, a Test win against Pakistan at home and, most recently, two hard-fought draws against the No.1 Test team in the world. He talks about how he has handled the criticism, his role in the side, and his influences.
People have questioned your place in the side, let alone your position as captain. How do you handle all this?
As long as you have mental toughness you can achieve anything you believe. That’s how I go about doing things. I don’t see myself as a saviour. I see myself as someone who tries his best to make a difference, bring the guys together and lead in the best manner possible.
Were you comfortable when the captaincy was thrust on to you? Did you ever think you will become captain so soon?
I never pictured my becoming captain. I was just delighted to play for West Indies; that was my childhood dream. When it [captaincy] was given to me I knew the state our cricket was in, and understood it would be a very difficult job. I saw it as another chapter, another challenge in my life which I was meant to face. It has its ups and downs but I am a fighter. I am trying to do my best for West Indies.
You knew when you accepted that job that it would be portrayed as Sammy v Chris Gayle. Did you think about that and wonder whether you should take up the job and prepare to face the wrath of Gayle’s fans?
My wife told me before I was captain that I was the most loved cricketer in the region [laughs]. Today, at the end of the Test, you saw a full stadium, West Indies earning a draw and the people rally behind us. When I meet people in the streets they urge me to keep doing what I am doing. It gives me motivation to go on. Somebody has pointed out to me that critics voice their opinions quite loudly but the majority of the people are silent. So I should just keep doing what I am doing.
People saw some leadership qualities in me. Today, if they tell me, “Darren you are not doing what we thought you could have done,” life goes on. I am that type of person. If I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing then I would give it up without a fuss.
Are you trying to prove a point each time you play?
I take five wickets in a match and the credit goes to the pitch. I have accepted that people will criticise whatever I do. Whether I perform or I don’t, people will have something to say about it. I tend not to focus on that. I have a job to do and I believe in my ability and the task I have been given. I think I am doing quite well. I don’t dwell too much on negative criticism. The more I get [criticism], the more motivated I get.
Some people call you a puppet of the board – a board man. What do you have to say about that?
Board man! I don’t know what they mean by that. The selectors recommended I be made captain and I’m doing my job.
For example, you didn’t attend the WIPA awards.
Oh, I wasn’t the only one who didn’t go. We had a few players who didn’t go to the WIPA awards. I guess it’s my name that has been caught. I have dealt with that issue. I spoke with the president of the players’ association [Dinanath Ramnarine] and I decided not to go for my own reasons. Other players decided not to go for their own reasons. If fact, I remember making a statement clarifying my name. I know the type of person I. I would never ask somebody not to go to the WIPA awards. I didn’t understand what the president of the players’ association was trying to prove. These are small matters and life goes on. The whole situation with Gayle is not in my hands. The people dealing with it have asked Gayle what he needs to do and stuff. And the coach has a way forward for the team and I believe whoever doesn’t want to buy into that, doesn’t want to fit into that…
Why do you think he doesn’t fit in the team?
I never said he doesn’t fit in the team. The matter is being dealt with and the sooner they resolve the matter the better it would be for us.
You said in a press conference that it was Gayle who first supported Gibson.
I could never forget it. It was right in Guyana. The coach had his say and then Gayle, who was captain the time, got up and said Ottis Gibson was what we needed.
He said that even in his latest release – that he backed Gibson first and was disappointed he was let down by the coach. Are you sad that you have been caught in all this? Your relationship with him [Gayle]…
Those are all the hurdles in life to jump over. Before I was captain one thing I knew for sure was to go out there and give my full support.
Did he support you?
Yes. He publicly said he would support me. I have no issues with Christopher. He helped me throughout the World Cup. I was always going to him for advice and stuff like that. It’s sad we have issues like this now. Hopefully something positive will come out of it.
People also say of you that the coach is more powerful than you?
Obviously, the coach is the head. He does the planning, together with myself. I believe in any team the coach and the captain should have a very good relationship in order for that team to go forward.
You believe in Gibson’s vision?
Oh yeah. The team is improving. If we have been losing for the last 15 years and if you do the same thing over and over and expect change, that’s insanity.
You want to the team to do well. You don’t all of a sudden change from losing, losing and losing to winning. That’s the plan [change] the coach has for us going forward. That’s why it’s important for everyone to buy into it.
People learn something new about them when they are inserted into pressure situations or responsibility? What have you learnt about yourself from this captaincy?
I really didn’t know that I can be this tough mentally! That’s the thing I have learnt about myself.
Today was the proudest day for you as captain?
The whole Test match, the kind of character my team showed it was tremendous. Three bowlers, Shiv playing his part, Kirk Edwards, Rampaul coming back after being sick…India led by over 100 runs and we managed to bring out our best batting performance in the series on the last day and we held India to a draw. It was great when we beat Pakistan as well.
Ah! For the first time you have said ‘My’ team.
Ha! Did I? [Laughs].