Daren Sammy: There is still a role for an anchor in T20 cricket

West Indies head coach Sammy talks about his team’s performance in the World Cup so far, why he feels low-scoring games are good and the importance of an anchor in T20 cricket.

Published : Jun 17, 2024 17:16 IST , Gros Islet (St. Lucia) - 7 MINS READ

Daren Sammy, the only skipper to have won the T20 World Cup title twice, is gunning for a third crown, this time as head coach of West Indies.
Daren Sammy, the only skipper to have won the T20 World Cup title twice, is gunning for a third crown, this time as head coach of West Indies. | Photo Credit: WINDIES CRICKET/X

Daren Sammy, the only skipper to have won the T20 World Cup title twice, is gunning for a third crown, this time as head coach of West Indies. | Photo Credit: WINDIES CRICKET/X

No team has ever won the T20 World Cup on home soil, but Rovman Powell’s West Indies team appears determined to break that streak.

It remains unbeaten after three league games and has already secured a place in the Super Eight stage. Next up, West Indies will face Afghanistan in a Group C match at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Gros Islet, St. Lucia.

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The Beausejour Cricket Ground, situated on the outskirts of the tourist resort area of Rodney Bay, was renamed as the Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, following West Indies’ dramatic World Twenty20 title win in India in 2016. As Sammy returns to the ground named in his honour, now as head coach of West Indies, Sportstar caught up with him to discuss his team’s performance in the ongoing tournament and the T20 format overall.


Q? Coach, last year you urged your batters to not just look for boundaries but look to keep rotating strike as well. It’s been a year since your appointment as head coach. Do you see an improvement in that department?

A) There has definitely been an improvement in the way we’ve batted against spin, especially in the middle overs between seven and 15. We’ve made significant strides in this area. According to my analysts, we’ve moved from about 6.5 runs per over during that period, especially against spin, to almost 8.5 runs per over. This improvement is evident in the scores we’ve achieved and the successes we’ve had throughout 2023, especially at home. Even when we toured Australia, we scored over 200 runs in three consecutive matches. This progress has not only been reflected in our scores but has also contributed to our rise in the rankings, driven by our improved batting performance.

Q) You’re a twin T20 World Cup-winning captain. How much has the T20 format changed over the last five years

A) Well, my team has not performed as well as we did after 2016, but the game is ever-evolving. All of last year, we saw the dominance of the bat versus the ball. You saw it in the IPL (Indian Premier League); the conditions favoured the batsmen much more than the bowlers. However, it was good to see some balance in this World Cup. Yes, the wickets have been difficult, but it’s about time the bowlers got a little bit of leeway and challenged the batters. The games have still been exciting, with teams trying to chase down 120 on wickets where you need to graft. There should be a balance, but T20 is always going to be about entertainment and excitement. The teams that have dominated have copied some of the strategies we used whilst we were champions, adding their own flair to them. Now it’s up to us to analyse and adapt again to be more consistent.

Q) You mentioned it yourself with plenty of chatter around the pitches in the Caribbean. Are you pleased with the wickets that have been used so far?

A) Ideally, in the World Cup, you would want an even contest. To be fair, it has been more bowler-friendly in these World Cups, but this brings balance for the bowlers after all the suffering they’ve had over the last year playing on flat wickets that favour the batters. This shift has brought some excitement. In a World Cup setting, it might be challenging for us in the Caribbean, especially during hurricane season when we don’t have consistent sunshine. This could have hampered the preparation of the pitches. However, we’ve still seen some quality matches go down to the wire on those pitches. This just means that batsmen need to apply themselves more.

Q) Andre Russell is back playing T20 cricket for the West Indies. How much of a difference has he made?

A) Andre, along with Johnson Charles, is one of our two players who have been part of a successful World Cup team twice. Having Andre on the team is invaluable. I remember having conversations with him about his mindset and whether he was still interested in playing for the West Indies. In his very first game back in Barbados against England [December 2023], he was named Man of the Match. I told him it was the fittest I had seen him in the last three years. We all know how hard he works and the consistency with which he plays. You saw him excel for KKR (Kolkata Knight Riders) in the IPL. What Andre brings to the table for us is his experience, calmness in different roles, and leadership. I am thrilled to have him in the squad, as I am for all the other guys. Over the last year, we have been a team that is gelling better and putting consistent performances on the field, and Russell has significantly contributed to that.

Q) Let’s talk bowling. How have the bowlers got better in T20s? Do you see them bowling more variations now?

A) I think the key is having all the data available against all the batters. The bowlers do their homework, and they try to execute their plans. Plenty of slower balls are used, but normally the surface dictates how you bowl. You’ll have the information, but the execution comes down to individual skills. Some of the key areas we’ve been working on are these skills. (Assistant coach) James (Franklin) and the other guys have focused on specific and purposeful training, even in camps. It’s crazy. Over the last year, bowlers have been put under pressure—not only our bowlers but all international bowlers. That said, I’m happy with the progress I’m seeing.

Q) The Impact Player rule has had a huge role in the IPL. In international cricket, where teams have all-rounders, can they look at scoring at a similar rapid pace?

A) I still believe that 11 guys should play all the time in international cricket. Other franchises or leagues can try whatever they want, but in international cricket, it’s 11 versus 11. You encourage the all-rounders to come out and play. To me, I have 11–15 impact players on my team. If you look at players like Roston Chase and Johnson Charles, down to Shamarh Brooks, all these guys can have an impact in various roles in the game. We saw Sherfane Rutherford perform against New Zealand and Roston Chase against PNG. I believe the contest should remain 11 versus 11 on the day, and it’s all about the impact that any player can have.

Q) Lastly, is an anchor batter of the ilk of Kane Williamson still useful in T20 cricket? West Indies often tends to refer to it as the Marlon Samuels role.

A) Yes, for sure. Especially in our team, we have all that power with Brandon King, Johnson Charles, Nicholas Pooran, and others. (Assistant coach) Floyd Reifer has a term he uses—he calls it the glue. With all the chaos that happens around you, you need someone to absorb the pressure like a sponge. Players like Roston Chase and Shai Hope are the guys who can play that role. They provide security at one end, ensuring that wickets are not falling from that end while they maintain a strike rate of 120.

Meanwhile, other players like Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King can go at 150. When you balance it out, you get a combined strike rate of closer to 140, allowing you to still achieve a total of 170. This is what you call batsmanship. These players should have the ability to grind it out on tough wickets, and if things are going well and wickets aren’t falling, they can continue to play freely. There’s still a role for them in T20 cricket.

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