Cricket: Windies skipper a charmer

By David Leggat

Darren Sammy contributed 80 to the West Indies' test-saving second innings of 507 at University Oval in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images
Darren Sammy contributed 80 to the West Indies' test-saving second innings of 507 at University Oval in Dunedin. Photo / Getty Images

The West Indies have a highly likeable captain in Darren Sammy.

Since taking over as skipper late in 2010, Sammy - the first St Lucian to play for the West Indies, let alone lead them - has been in charge in 28 of his 36 tests, for eight wins and 10 losses, nine against top class opponents in India (five times), England and Australia (twice each).

Captaining the West Indies has not always been an easy job, considering the strong island rivalries.

But Sammy seems to be making a good fist of it, and he led them to the world T20 title in Colombo a year ago, the West Indies' first global crown since the Champions Trophy in England nine years ago.

He's an engaging man with the ability to laugh at himself, as he demonstrated yesterday when talking about the flight into Wellington on Sunday.

Even hardened New Zealand travellers on that flight and used to the discomforts of landing in the capital when the wind is up admitted it was a rough ride.

Sammy had a fear of flying, courtesy of one occasion when an engine broke down in mid-flight.

"Before we went to India [last month] we went to Miami for some team bonding and I did a roller-coaster," he said.

"I said yes, I'm over the flying issue. I thought I was until the other day. I was screaming like my daughter.

"I'm definitely taking the bus next time. My wife was due to fly into that airport. I told her no chance, so she's going to do Sydney-Auckland, not Sydney-Wellington."

Sammy is integral to this team, so when he strained a gluteal muscle during the drawn first test in Dunedin, the signs were ominous for the Basin Reserve, especially how he would be able to recover to fill the third seamer's role.

But yesterday he said he was ready for the match.

"I'm feeling very confident. Everything seems good."

Sammy's problem is more in his numbers, which don't convince that he's out of the top drawer in either category as an allrounder.

He's averaging 23 with the bat, with one test century in England last year, and has 79 wickets at 35.75. He has taken just three wickets in five tests this year, two of them in Dunedin.

Sammy is a clean hitter, even when reduced to a limp, as his 80 in the West Indies' test-saving second innings of 507 showed at University Oval.

That innings had boosted his team's self-belief, Sammy said, especially as it was achieved without contributions from their two most highly regarded batsmen, Shiv Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels.

"It was good to see we batted for long periods. It will not only give the team confidence but the individual players, that they can get the job done when put under some serious pressure," Sammy said.

The spinoff is he's expecting his team to have found their test legs after a messy arrival into the country in dribs and drabs, many without even a practice game behind them straight from the heat and dust of Kolkata and Mumbai.

As for New Zealand?

"I don't know what their minds will be like, but if I was in that situation, having dominated for so long and not [to] get the result would have been disappointing.

"I guess they'll come back even harder. The difference is that we have seen what they have. I think they were playing their best cricket and yet they still didn't get the victory they deserved."

All perfectly reasonable points from a man who, whatever the reservations about the scale of his allround abilities, seems able to push all the right buttons as a leader.

- NZ Herald

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