December 18, 2021

People love to abuse, mock or belittle Darren Sammy. He is, after all, West Indies’ non-playing captain.

Most people don’t think he should be in the side, and even those who do don’t think he should be leading it. He’s a punchline or a punching bag. His medium pace is very gentle and his wild slogging is rarely effective. In his World Twenty20 winning side he is only more naturally talented than Johnson Charles, Denesh Ramdin and Samuel Badree.

Michael Holding, most cricket fans on twitter, and anywhere West Indies cricket gathers there are people that don’t want Sammy as captain of the side. Most of those people don’t want him in the side at all. He’s not good enough, he brings nothing to the side, Chris Gayle could do a better job and he’s taking the spot of someone better, is what they say. They say it a lot.

Sammy has heard all of this. He’s just a nice guy. You could imagine him at a friend’s party, being holed up in the corner by someone who is telling him he should step down because he isn’t good enough. Every day he plays for West Indies, he simply does his best. Sometimes it is not good enough, but you can see how much he tries, see how much he wants it, and see that he is trying to build something for the islands and cricket team he loves.

Tonight this barely-talented, slow-bowling guy who isn’t that good is the captain of the World Twenty20 champions.

His innings was as far from pretty. He barely kept out yorkers, hit crazily across the line, mistimed almost everything and bludgeoned a couple of boundaries in the last over. He heaved West Indies to a score that Sri Lanka could not challenge. This was a captain’s innings.

Off the field, Sammy has strolled around his tournament with a grin, always happy to chat, always smiling and never looking like a man under pressure. He is known as the “the unofficial nicest man in cricket”. Every press conference he has pushed unity of his many nations. He has done everything he can to keep his often-fractured team together. He is using this tournament to build something special. Something for the future. Something the people of the West Indies can be proud of.

“1st huddle conquered now on to the super 8 one people one team one goal wi bleed maroon…” from @DarrenSammy

With the ball, he came on at a time when Sri Lanka had thrust Angelo Mathews up the order. Mathews can score quickly, Mathews can get your run-rate back on track, Mathews is a big-game player, and Mathews is a closer. Sammy brought up his fine leg, knowing Mathews would be tempted. Sammy tried an offcutter and Mathews fell straight into his trap, missing the ball as it moved further away from him off the pitch. Mathews was no longer the match-winner. In his next over Sammy let one run through and collected the wicket of the last recognised batsman. This was clever and gutsy bowling from a leader.

Just having West Indies enter a tournament with a realistic chance of winning was a victory for Sammy. West Indies have not been travelling the world blazing all the teams they pass. They’ve played well at times against England, Australia, India and New Zealand. People have often talked up a West Indies renaissance before, but in the cold hard light of an international tournament it has fallen apart. To win this tournament you need luck, skill and timing.

“Booooom what a performance by team Windies. One team one people one goal one more hurdle. For the fans. Wi All In” from @DarrenSammy

In the field Sammy used his bowlers brilliantly. His use of Badree was different than normal, but perfect for the situation. He got through cheap overs from Gayle and Marlon Samuels to give himself flexibility. He used Sunil Narine as a strike weapon and someone who could be kept as a saver. And he had Sri Lanka batting the exact way he needed them to bat. Nothing ever got away from him and, even when Kulasakera was hitting out, he just brought back Narine to finish it all and not let his players get nervous. His captaincy was directly responsible for Sri Lanka’s failure.

West Indies were lucky to even make the semi-finals. New Zealand should have beaten them in their regular innings, but Narine was just too good and sent them to the Super Over. Then in the Super Over someone made a huge mistake. It was the only time West Indies truly looked like a team who wasn’t sure who their leader was. Samuels bowling the Super Over was just wrong, and was only undone by Samuels batting in the Super Over. A mistake like that, and the lack of cohesiveness out on the field while it happened, could have been enough for previous West Indies sides to lose their focus and play limply in the semi-final and fade away.

Instead they played their most perfect game and smashed Australia in every way.

Every single player on this team has a role. This is not a team of flashy show-offs who do solo missions. It is a talented team with a captain who trusts and manages his players the best way he can. In the final, they did not panic when they couldn’t score, they simply waited for their time. They did not panic when they couldn’t break through, they simply worked very hard. That is a team, and this team has a leader.

“Wi bleeding maroon for the fan..this is it … One team One people One Goal…” From @Darrensammy

In the final of the World T20, Sammy ended with 2 for 6 off two overs, 26 off 15 balls and a trophy. It doesn’t sound like non-playing.

Sammy is the man no one wanted as a player. Sammy is the man who no one wanted as a captain. And Sammy is the captain who has given his team their first major ICC trophy since 1979.

“This is it for the fans wi bleed maroon wi came wi saw and wi conquered. One team one people and the goal was achieved” From @Darrensammy