If looks could kill, you’d either resort to James Dean, Alain Delon, Natalie Wood, Rita Hayworth or Aishwarya Rai. If on-screen acting could rescue you from the edge of boredom, you’d put on a Tom Hanks film.
If you had a cricketer to bat for your life, you’d ring up Jack Kallis or Rahul Dravid.
But if you were to revive the West Indies cricket- specifically in the limited overs format- you’d find out where the hell Darren Sammy was.
In fact, leave that. You’d come out with an innovative, catchy creative and publish it everywhere from a Trinidadian Guardian to the Jamaica Gleaner. That told it would be worthwhile to make this as a ‘Missing’ person’s ad.
Here’s how the copy might right:
Missing: If anyone’s seen a tall, lithe, muscular, successful and experienced West Indies professional cricketer, get in touch with Cricket Windies headquarters.
Urgent: Extensive cash reward to anyone who spots this two-time ICC World T20 winner.
Name: Darren Sammy
Key Milestones: The ICC World T20 wins of 2012 and 2016, tons of adulation from critics and fans, Darren Sammy Stadium, St. Lucia, Caribbean.
In a country that is but a tiny assortment of islands, Cricket is a great uniter. It gets people together; it’s that glue that makes objects stick with the others. And West Indies Cricket has had its own special glue. Alas, it’s gone missing somewhere.
This glue has a spirit; it smiles, it laughs, it wears bright bling and plays an enterprising brand of cricket. It represents a heady concoction of fire and ice.
Darren Sammy: one man, myriad emotions.
Just how does one extend an Ode to the man who collected love everywhere he went and played, be it the CPL, IPL, PSL and even the Bangladesh Premier League or the BPL?
Had Darren Sammy been a question directing students to answer a multiple-choice answer, the following would be the options:
A smasher of bowlers
An uniter of cricketers,
A native St. Lucian,
A dedicated sportsman,
Belongs to the Caribbean,
A devoted all-rounder,
A great friend to everyone whether Bravo and Gayle,
A motivator to Evin Lewis and Carlos Brathwaite, but above all- an ever-smiling man.
You’d tick boxes endlessly in regard for a man who, despite not possessing talent commonly associated with the game’s more salubrious names- Haynes, Lara, Richards, Sachin, Ponting, Bevan, Imran Khan, Mark Waugh, Haydos, Williamson- has an achievement that none of the above possesses.
Have they guided a team often in more doldrums than in a vein of consistency to two World Cup-winning crowns?
Not since Darren Sammy have the West Indies seen a more polarised cricketer. It may likely never change and may stay that way.
Not since Darren Sammy has the role of a captain been so utterly important to a team that, to this day, seems to be playing cricket more for fun and less for the dire need to win, even as it never distrusted its own passion for a sport that defines the Caribbean.
There are more ironies that define Darren Sammy’s hitherto-truncated career than the highs that avidly paint it.
Never before has there been a T20 captain who arrived in a country wherein he’d guide his team to a historic success but minus the most basic cricket gear. When Sammy’s World T20-winning army arrived at the Eden Gardens, the team manager- Rawl Lewis- got the team’s jerseys printed at the last minute. Most players didn’t have a basic kit bag.
Sammy, undeterred, asked them to continue furthering their dream; he didn’t ask them to stop believing. By the time Stokes had been carved for 4-back-to-back sixes by Carlos Brathwaite, who rightfully earned his 15 seconds of fame, you forgot who the man behind the orchestration was. You were to actually remember Darren Sammy, but none of us did.
To this day, despite giving West Indies cricket a fresh lease of life, earning a unit that often behaves like a petulant child as if someone had snatched its lollipop, a reason to exist, Darren Sammy is chided.
What was his fault?
He was vocal in his acerbic criticism of a cricket board that’s ill-treated a team known to excel at a format at which it owned 2 World Titles; in the lair of the Wall, in the dominion of the God of Cricket.
Let’s delve deep into a basic fact of life.
Today, when a Gayle or a Bravo plays in a CPL- do you think it’s out of a compulsion to make that extra buck?
Gayle’s Universe Boss status stems from his commanding fame, oodles of which he’s earned playing franchise cricket mushrooming in different cricketing entities around the world.
Bravo, the DMX of Cricket, as proficient a master of the disguised slower ball as he is of the hip-shaking, catchy Calypso numbers plays for pure fun and love of the sport. Neither are commercially bent on paying for their bills.
What about Darren Sammy?
If he doesn’t turn up for the St. Lucia Zouks, Toronto Nationals or a Peshawar Zalmi- he cannot freely move about in a world that is familiar with his easy-going nature.
His name isn’t yet a buck-spinning mega turner on the box office, say something like a new Ethan Hunt adventure called Mission Impossible: 6.
Darren Sammy is captain inspirational but no cricketing immortal. The traffic doesn’t stop outside the Queen’s Park Oval when Darry Sammy walks into bat. Kids don’t exhibit nail-less fingers when Sammy takes guard during the death overs in a CPL contest.
Nor do girls grow weak in their knees marvelling at Sammy’s histrionics on an Instagram. In fact, given its abysmal failure to understand this utterly uncomplicated cricketer, there being no Darren Sammy in traditional Windies jersey is a greater loss for the Cricket Board than for a man who considers his greatest achievement ever as being once a part of the West Indies.
To be fair to Darren Sammy, when someone of his stature takes part in the Caribbean Premier League, you feel sorry for the guy. He can often seem a fun personality in a sport that’s increasingly opting to side with those excelling at shenanigans.
Quite frankly, there was no need to have extended an olive branch to Darren Sammy, an endangered species in international cricket- who accepts all decisions, whether in his favour or against with the familiar glee.
At times, it feels, more than his own shadow, his smile is his constant companion. There’s little surprise then that it might have been the one huge key that may have kept West Indies’ most polarised cricketer- sane. This is, amid a background that is anything but sane or normal.
The West Indies cricket, of late, has shown a constant spate of improvements. Sad it is then that none of those has involved a direct contribution from Darren Sammy, who, for many cricketers- both from within the Caribbean and abroad, as seen in the jovial bond he’s come to share with a Shakib, Afridi, Pollard- is a gentle, caring soul.
At 34, Sammy’s in the final stage of his career. Though peak fitness suggests he could stretch himself up to 3 more years. But the only question is, should he and if yes, then for which West Indies?
The one that plays competitive, first-class international cricket quite often like a headless chicken or like a massively driven cricketing army that’s as keen to plunder T20 sixes as it is in gulping down some rich, frothy Caribbean lager?