The Sammy Standard

Darren Sammy…“I am in the happiest phase of my life.”-V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

“Captaincy has been the biggest challenge of my career. It came to me with a lot of criticism, but I found a way out, thanks to my mental strength,” says Darren Sammy in a chat with V. V. Subrahmanyam.

Darren Sammy’s Calypso charm is striking. The Sunrisers Hyderabad player was one of the biggest crowd-pullers in the 2013 Indian Premier League.

With a typical West Indian attitude to anything he does — either on the field, with his famous celebrations with a child pacifier in his mouth or a spirited jig, or off it — Darren Sammy is a real character who is loved by not only his team-mates but also the crowds.

“I must say that I am in the happiest phase of my life. Enjoying every moment on the field and off it,” said the 29-year-old West Indian Test and T20 captain, in an exclusive chat with Sportstar.

“The IPL was real fun for me as it gave us a rare chance to play with and against some of the best players — both past and present. You tend to learn so many things. I tell you, when I met Sir Vivian Richards in Hyderabad before the Delhi game, it was a great experience. Such a great player and at the same time such a friendly gentleman,” said Sammy.

Incidentally, Sammy revealed that the photograph he had taken with Vivian Richards when they met in Hyderabad is a priceless one for him.

Is the IPL popular in the West Indies?

“Oh! There is a lot of following (for IPL). If you are a Jamaican, you love Chris Gayle and Royal Challengers Bangalore, and if you are from St. Lucia (from where Sammy hails) the Sunrisers Hyderabad is the favourite,” Sammy said with a smile.

Interestingly, the West Indian captain, who led his team to victory in the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka last year, said that one of the reasons for that memorable triumph was the experience of the West Indians in the IPL. “You are bound to be different and better cricketers once you get this kind of exposure,” he stressed.

Then digressing, Sammy remarked gently that it was a very difficult choice for him to leave his newborn baby Skia and join the Sunrisers Hyderabad team in the IPL. “I felt disappointed, honestly, to leave my family. But I derived satisfaction by watching my baby on Skype every night. What to do? Cricket is my career and she will understand one day why I left her to play the game which I love so much,” he said philosophically.

Talking of his smiling look, Sammy said: “It comes naturally to me. I repeat, I am in the happiest stage of my life (the last three years). I know so many people get up every morning and go to work even though most of them don’t really like it. But for me, there is no better joy than playing cricket.”

Playing to the gallery…Darren Sammy of Sunrisers Hyderabad celebrates after dismissing Shaun Marsh of Kings XI Punjab in the IPL.-PTI

How significant was the T20 World Cup victory for the West Indies?

“I will never take credit for that victory. It was team work, good effort from all the guys and we are slowly trying to move forward,” the West Indian all-rounder said. “Definitely, we should be a little more consistent with our performances to be a much better Test side,” he added.

Is cricket still popular back home?

“Cricket is the No. 1 sport in the West Indies. The thing is once you keep giving good results, you feel this factor. That’s why I keep telling my team-mates, ‘once you enter the field just remember about the six million fans back home eagerly awaiting something special from you,’” Sammy said.

“Once you perform, the smiles will be back on their faces. That should be one of the important objectives for all West Indian cricketers,” he added.

How can IPL help cricket in the West Indies?

“Well, the Gayles, the Narines, the Pollards are all a big hit by virtue of their feats in the IPL, and that by itself is a big motivating factor. Many talented youngsters in the high-performance centre, set up by the West Indies Cricket Board, look up to these cricketers and dream big. And, I tell you, West Indies cricket is going in the right direction,” Sammy said.

As for his own approach to the game, Sammy said: “Honestly, I cherish every moment of achievement on the field. For me, it is way above my dreams as a young boy wanting to play cricket for the West Indies.”

Talking of the challenges of being the captain of West Indies, which has a great history, Sammy remarked, “True, captaincy has been the biggest challenge of my career. It came to me with a lot of criticism, but I found a way out thanks to my mental strength.

“People always had to say something about Sammy. I know we dominated world cricket for 17 years without a break under Clive Lloyd and Sir Richards. I take inspiration from my family, mom and dad. I always try to be as relaxed as possible, whatever people say about me. I have zeal — to go out and perform as well as I can each time I get a chance.”

What about fast bowling in the West Indies and why is the team struggling on this front?

“Well, there definitely was a phase when we could not find many who could come anywhere close to the famous names under Lloyd and Richards. But things are changing now. We have a bunch of fast bowlers like Kemar Roach, Tino Best (though 30-plus) and Jason Holder capable of rising to the occasion. But then, it is true that wickets have slowed down considerably. This is something the curators should answer. I saw a semi-final of a first-class competition where one spinner took 14 or 16 wickets and the match ended in two days,” Sammy said.

On Dwayne Bravo taking over from him as the captain for the Champions Trophy, he said: “Well, we have played cricket together. I became captain when the selectors were looking for new direction. It is almost three years now since I have started leading the side. It is a fact that we have not done as well as we should have in the one-dayers.

“But I assert our cricket is not all about Sammy but West Indies. I extend full support to Bravo and in fact, I had a long chat with him in Chennai and in Hyderabad before the IPL games and I assured him this (my support).

“I feel he will have the same kind of energy and is a guy not afraid of experimenting. In fact, the whole team will support him and try to win the Champions Trophy. I wish him all the best.”

What has been the best about Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL?

“Well, it was a very good, tight unit. Waqar (Younis) was brilliant. VVS (Laxman) and (Krishnamachari) Srikkanth have a terrific sense of humour. Head coach Tom Moody and assistant coach Simon Helmot were always there with plans for each opposition and each player. All that we needed to do was to execute them. And the results were there for all to see. Not many gave us a chance of qualifying for the play-offs, but we made it,” said Sammy.

“We always focussed on our strengths and did not give too much thought to our rivals’ strengths and weaknesses. And it has been an amazing feeling to go into the play-offs, having defended small totals often,” he added.

Has he set any personal goals?

“Well, I am definitely working a lot to be a complete all-rounder though I am more successful with the ball. Still trying to get all aspects together,” Sammy said.