“Ready to learn everyday”

The West Indian captain Darren Sammy sure has a sense of humour.-S. SUBRAMANIUM

“Whether you are captaining or in life, you must be ready to learn every day. And so far my team-mates, my coaching staff, the people around me have supported me. The job is getting easier and easier,” says the West Indian skipper Darren Sammy. Over to K. C. Vijaya Kumar.

Leadership in cricket has been an inclusive management tool that weaves in diverse strands like M.S. Dhoni's lead-from-the-front approach to Darren Sammy's I-am-learning-on-the-job attitude. The rival captains have one common attribute — the ability to look at the lighter side of issues.

Sammy particularly needs to have that sense of humour as he leads an evolving squad that has the onerous task of matching the exploits of previous teams led by Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards. There is also the added burden of earning his right to be in the playing eleven. Ahead of the first Test (Nov. 6 to 9) at Delhi's Ferozeshah Kotla Ground, Sammy said: “I am ready to learn every day. Whether you are captaining or in life, you must be ready to learn every day. And so far my team-mates, my coaching staff, the people around me have supported me. The job is getting easier and easier. I just try to do what I know how to do, which is when bowling, keeping one end tight, and look to score runs when I bat. And look to take the right decision for the team. Slowly but surely I can see some signs of improvement.”

During a press conference, a mobile doubling up as a recorder and placed near the microphone, started to buzz and Sammy mimicked its ring-tone and the ad-jingle and when he paused, a veteran scribe mentioned the name of the brand and there was laughter all around. The Caribbean skipper even defused potential land mines and when a question was raised about missing an experienced opener (read ‘Chris Gayle'), Sammy quickly pointed out that the current pair of Kraigg Brathwaite and Kieran Powell are young and talented and need time.

The Gavaskar chronicles

Sunil Gavaskar's exploits against the West Indies are the stuff of legend. With a calypso in his honour and the attendant awe that he still generates among men like Michael Holding, Gavaskar can never be far when India takes on the West Indies though the context of Caribbean dominance is now just a distant memory.

Sunil Gavaskar presents his bat to West Indies 'keeper Jeff Dujon on bettering Don Bradman's record of 29 Test hundreds, on the fourth day of the sixth and Final Test, at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Madras, on December 28, 1983. He remained unbeaten on 149 at the close of play and went on to his best Test score of 236 not out the next day. Gavaskar and Dujon are on the commentary team in the ongoing India-West Indies series.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

During the course of the first Test, the scorecard of a distant match at the same venue in 1983 was beamed on television. Gavaskar had then smashed a 121 (128b, 15x4, 2x6), a century that rippled with hooks against Malcolm Marshall while the opener preferred aggression to obduracy. Another Mumbai stalwart Dilip Vengsarkar scored 159 and the match was drawn.

As the television screen briefly dabbled in nostalgia, in the commentary box, Gavaskar and former West Indies wicket-keeper Jeff Dujon, who had witnessed that carnage from close quarters, shared a laugh.

Another peak tumbles

The Ferozeshah Kotla Ground was a vast expanse of mostly empty seats as the fans remained lukewarm. And reports about tickets being sold only at a bank, probably killed whatever enthusiasm remained among the die-hards. Yet for those who trickled in, there were the twin joys of seeing an Indian triumph and Sachin Tendulkar going past 15,000 Test runs. The 100th hundred though remained elusive and Sammy said: “I would prefer to see him do that against Australia while I sit on my couch and cheer for him.”

The twisted ways of news dissemination were also on view after the match was over as Dhoni was asked about the ‘hype and hoopla around Tendulkar's probable ton' and the skipper said that it was the media that was feeling the pressure more than the maestro. By evening, that line had acquired a different version and a television channel glibly proclaimed that Dhoni had said that media pressure was preventing Tendulkar from reaching the milestone!

That lingering shadow

Actor Saif Ali Khan has admitted to being overwhelmed by the glowing tributes that were paid to his father Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi through the media after the former India captain's demise. Pataudi's halo continued to linger when ahead of the first Test, Dhoni was asked to react and the skipper said: “Well he was a great cricketer. I haven't seen too many games of him because I was not a very keen watcher of the game. I have not followed history that much but whatever I have heard and whatever glimpses I have seen, he looked as a great leader and to some extent you can say he was an aggressive cricketer on the field. It is a big loss for Indian cricket. We will miss someone who has given a lot to Indian cricket.”

The prince (Pataudi), who ushered in democracy within the Indian team and the rustic-town warrior (Dhoni), who offered hope to men from small towns, are all part a nation's lovely journey in its favourite game. Dhoni also etched a fine record during the game when he went past Syed Kirmani's Indian high of 198 dismissals behind the stumps. Dhoni, at the time of going to the press, had 202 in his kitty.