Coming from Saint Lucia — a minuscule island in the Caribbean — Daren Sammy took giant strides in international cricket. He was the first cricketer from the islet to represent the West Indies. The six-feet-three-inch all-rounder evolved into a motivational figure and a successful leader.
Injuries and disagreements during the Dave Cameron regime in the West Indies Cricket Board led to Sammy’s abrupt ouster in 2016 but there is every possibility of a comeback. Sammy still remains the only international captain to win the T20 World Cup twice — in 2012 and 2016.
The 36-year-old will be looking to get things rolling in the ongoing Caribbean Premier League. It is his rehearsal space before the T20 World Cup in 2021 to prove that he is not done yet.
The skipper of St Lucia Zouks won three of the first four games, though the bat and ball are yet to talk. In a chat with Sportstar , Sammy threw light on how he trained for the CPL, plans of coming back to the Indian Premier League (IPL) in a different capacity and more.
Like most of the players, it’s been a while since you played — the last time being in the Pakistan Super League in February. How did you train for the CPL?
We had a T10 competition [St Lucia T10 blast] on the island that provided us with some well-needed match practice. We had our inter-district competition too. I also did my own personal training from the fitness point of view. I had to get my body right to play.
How did COVID-19 affect your training and lifestyle?
Most of the cricketers did not have the opportunity to train for the COVID situation. You may have seen that guys were a bit rusty in the first few games but now after a few games, they are slowly getting back into the feel of things. For me, once I am mentally ready, I think I have enough experience to go out and do what I do. I know my game quite well. My main focus of preparation is on the mental side of things.
How did you keep yourself psychologically motivated in the no cricketing action phase?
Cricket is 90 percent mental. The skill is only 10 percent. It is about controlling your emotions and using your mind to make the right decisions. COVID has affected everyone. It tested your mental toughness. I was in Saint Lucia, a beautiful island. We managed the COVID situation quite well. For most parts, we were not in lockdown and were still free to do some training. Once the Prime Minister eased off the lockdown and allowed gyms and sporting venues to reopen we were right back at it. We had tournaments which gave me an opportunity to get on the park.
Though people are watching you play the CPL and enjoying the action on television, the fans in IPL miss you. Do you see yourself back in the IPL next year?
To be honest, I have had great memories playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab, who are now the owners of St Lucia Zouks. If an opportunity arises, I will play in India again as that is the place where I played my last international match in 2016 [T20 World Cup final in Kolkata in 2016]. Cricket is like a religion there and every player enjoys performing in front of passionate fans. If I get a chance, I will, more now for my partnership with Kings XI. To see where my career is heading, probably next year I could be in India for a mentorship or a consultant role. India is a place where I have enjoyed touring.
What are your best memories from the IPL?
My first fifty, against Rajasthan Royals. I also remember a game against the Kolkata Knight Riders when Sunil Narine bowled a maiden over to me and in the next over I hit a left-arm spinner for two sixes to win that game and help us qualify for the playoffs. It was our debut season as Sunrisers Hyderabad.
Talking about India, Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired from international cricket recently. You two have played a lot of cricket against each other. What are your memories?
Not only IPL, but also international cricket. I bowled him twice ( laughs ), in Test cricket and in a One-Day game where Marlon Samuels had scored a hundred [in Kochi, 2014]. Like everybody who praises Dhoni, I feel the same — his level of calmness as a leader, a captain, a finisher of the game stand out. He really brought back that term ‘finisher.’ Growing up, it was Michael Bevan from Australia who was the finisher. M. S. Dhoni took it to another level and that inspired a lot of guys, including myself, at the back end of an innings. His cricket brain was articulate. India will never get a captain like Dhoni. He is truly one of a kind.
How does it feel to have a stadium named after you?
It is something for which I always have to pinch myself. When I drive by the stadium and I see written in big and bold ‘Daren Sammy Cricket Ground,’ it is something I am always in awe of. It is truly humbling to see the appreciation from the government and people of Saint Lucia. When I drive past the stadium with my kids, they start screaming, ‘Daren Sammy Cricket Ground. It is daddy’s stadium’. It gives you a sense of pride to know that it will live on forever. My kids will have kids and they will talk about it, it is either their father or grandfather. No matter where you come from, if you have a goal and dream in your life and you believe in yourself, you can achieve it.
The whole world knows about your love for Pakistan. What’s the status of the highest civilian honour and citizenship that you were supposed to receive in March?
The Nishan-e-Pakistan award is very honourable to me and I am grateful and thankful. It is a privilege to be recognised in a place with over 200 million people compared to St Lucia with 140,000 people. It is something to be proud of. Everybody knows how much I have enjoyed playing in Pakistan. I was supposed to get the award on March 23, but the COVID situation happened and the borders were closed. People had to return home. I would probably have to wait till later this year or next year to officially get the award.
What are your thoughts on the Pakistan Test team that is touring in England?
I want to congratulate Pakistan for travelling to England in this situation. First it was done by the West Indies followed by Pakistan. We should not take them for granted; and their love for cricket and wanting to give the viewers some cricket action. But they haven’t really played well. They had a good opportunity in the first Test but they let it slip away.
Where are they going wrong?
England has always been difficult to beat in its own conditions, the team really put the choke hold on Pakistan. But Pakistan is a team which has good batsmen in its top five in all formats like Babar Azam, and you have young fast bowlers in Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah and then Yasir Shah as a spinner. But Test cricket is a contest where you have to be mentally and technically sound to beat England in its conditions and I don’t think Pakistan has been that consistent.
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