Darren Sammy has been an exceptional leader for the West Indies during a period when they have been uncharacteristically mild and not-so-aggressive © Getty Images
By retiring from Tests, Darren Sammy doesn’t have to carry the burden of justifying his Test spot anymore. Abhijit Banare feels this move will help Sammy focus on the shorter formats where has been effective as a player.
In the sixth season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), Mumbai Indians had taken a brave step of installing Ricky Ponting as the skipper. It was an automatic criticism that Ponting could make for an excellent skipper but can he deliver with the bat. And things progressed on expected lines. And mid-season, Ponting continued to lead the team, but off the field as he dropped himself. The little tweaking in the playing XI worked well for Mumbai Indians’ well-oiled journey. The shortest and the fast moving format ensured that the tough decisions were taken quickly. Similarly, the West Indian skipper’s post needed a rethink. Darren Sammy was certainly a gentleman to lead the team across formats but in the longest format his performance as an ‘all-rounder’ wasn’t going to inspire the team.
Even as he walks away from the longest form with only 38 Tests, there wasn’t much shock or displeasure from anyone over the decision from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). Ever since the series against India in Sachin Tendulkar’s farewell series, Sammy’s contribution for the team had come under scanner. It’s typical of teams around the world. When the results are coming your way, it doesn’t attract much eyeballs, but the losses break open the weak aspects. Sammy was neither a reliable batsman nor a threatening bowler. However inspiring you can be, it requires some captain’s knock or spell that lifts the team spirit, but somehow Sammy never looked cut out for the format. His aggression often overtook the call for caution in batting. The spectators knew, the big shots were on their way and so was the opposition team’s hopes of scalping a quick wicket in the process. Yet he backed himself and pulled through on many occasions.
Darren Sammy will remain a classic example of being an exceptional player who gained his reputation in the shorter formats and doesn’t necessarily require a ‘remarkable’ Test career to justify his skills.
Despite all that, his leadership skills and inclusive nature stood out in a rather less aggressive West Indian line-up. Keeping the criticism over his cricketing skills aside, Sammy did a fine job managing his resources when he didn’t have a team good enough to bet the best in the world. It’s under his tenure that the Caribbean side put the jigsaw puzzle in place and found much more stability in the limited overs format. And as the solidity progresses towards the Tests, Sammy’s contribution was bound to be questioned. Yet, this decision will mark the beginning of a new Sammy.
Why Test retirement was a fine call? Sammy will walk into the next series without the burden of leading in Tests and more significantly proving his skills in the format. There’s very little doubt that leading in Tests can be very absorbing for the captain and it requires tremendous mental strength to outsmart the opposition for five days. But Sammy does not have to do any of them and focus on the formats where he has been naturally good.
His decision is a part of the regular trend which has emerged since the advent of Twenty20s. Cricketers can prolong their career even after a formal retirement, opt for the shorter formats knowing that there is a secure career ahead. And the concept of retirement has been redefined thoroughly. A Test retirement isn’t as dramatic as it used to be.
In the ODIs and T20s, it would be exciting to see a rejuvenated Sammy who will be much more determined to improve his worth. And it goes in sync with the quality of players he has for these formats. His hard work and commitment has already earned him the respect a captain should have in the team. It’s time for Sammy to show results in ODIs and T20s – which he is very well capable of.
He will remain a classic example of being an exceptional player who gained his reputation in the shorter formats and doesn’t necessarily require a ‘remarkable’ Test career to justify his skills. In the end, the WICB were only looking for a much sought after strategy of different skipper for different format. Sammy’s only added a bit of drama to the board’s decision.
(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)