Darren Sammy's less-than impressive all-round records puts question mark on his place in West Indies' Test team

Although Darren Sammy is a powerful hitter in the shorter formats of the game, his batting prowess in Tests is less than impressive © Getty Images

Darren Sammy has won fulsome praise for uniting a set of players from different islands of the Caribbean. However, his Test performances haven’t been up to the mark. Bharath Ramaraj explains why Sammy needs to step up to the plate and perform creditably in Test cricket.

The world of sport can sometimes be cruel, as fantasy dreams of a truly ambitious sportsperson needn’t come true. The crash landing happens so abruptly that it can be a soul-shattering experience. True champions though, won’t look at it as the end of the road. In spite of the clock ticking against them, they map their way back to success by fighting against all odds and piloting themselves to the pinnacle of success.
At present, West Indies captain Darren Sammy is one such sportsman who has to fight against all odds and map his way back to success by showing that he warrants a place in the Test team. He also needs to lift the sagging spirits of a team down in the dumps after losing their first Test against India by an innings and 51 runs in Kolkata.
Yes, last year, Sammy won fulsome praise for the way he united a set of players coming from different Caribbean islands during the ICC World T20 2012 in Sri Lanka and marshalled the side to a famous triumph. Having said that, a cricketer also has to be worth his place in the side and that is where there is a major question mark over Sammy, especially in the Test arena.
If we go down the memory lane, Sammy in his very first Test at Old Trafford, Manchester in 2007 gave a fine exhibition of seam bowling when he took a seven-wicket haul. It was a commanding performance from him. Even after he was surprisingly anointed as the captain of West Indies team in the 2010-11 season, he made waves in Test cricket by taking a five-wicket haul against the mercurial Pakistani set-up in a Test match played at Guyana.
However, in recent times we have seen Sammy struggle to maintain even a decent line and length. At his pace and as he isn’t someone who can swing the ball like a boomerang, he needs to be ultra-consistent with his line and length. For instance, in the just concluded Test match against India at the Eden Gardens, he could only bowl 12 overs and almost every-time he came onto bowl, the Indian batsmen feasted on some wayward bowling by the medium-pacer.
In fact, he could bowl a mere 12 overs out of 129.4 that the West Indies bowled during their innings. It can even be said that his bowling was a picture of inconsistency during the innings. Poor Sammy, every-time he dragged it down short, one could hear exasperated sighs from him. The way Sammy has bowled recently is encapsulated by his bowling average in the last 13 Tests he has played for the West Indies. During those 13 Tests, he has taken 18 wickets at a not too impressive average of 51.77 and his strike rate stands at 106.0.
It isn’t like bowlers who bowl strictly at military medium-pace have no place in top-flight cricket. Yorkshire and England pacer Derek Shackleton was known as a model of consistency during his heydays. England’s Alec Bedser and nowadays, Vernon Philander from South Africa have succeeded in Test cricket. Both, in terms of pace, are a yard quicker when compared to Sammy, but nowhere near the quick bracket. The writer is also of the opinion that in search of genuine pace, Australia made a huge blunder by discarding the quintessential Victorian medium-pacer, Andrew McDonald, from the set-up. But all of the above mentioned medium-pacers were extremely accurate and good at generating copious movement in the air or off the pitch.
In Sammy’s defence, he has shown some improvements in his batting. Last year, he made a gutsy century at Trent Bridge against a fine English attack. There were occasions when England’s swing-king James Anderson, opened him up like a can of bees on and around his off-stump and went past his outside edge. But despite the flaws in his technique, Sammy was able to steady a sinking ship and take them to safe waters with a fine knock.
Yet, the problem is, Sammy still isn’t good enough to play as a No 7 batsman for West Indies. It is accentuated by the fact that he would struggle to get into the West Indies’ set-up as one of the four front-line bowlers too.
The truth of the matter is that success in the T20 format doesn’t guarantee you a Test place. Any team, especially West Indies, can’t carry a passenger for long. It is high time that Sammy asserts his confidence and earns his spurs in Test cricket by performing creditably as a bowling all-rounder.

(Bharath Ramaraj, an MBA in marketing, eats, drinks and sleeps cricket. He has played at school and college-level, and now channelises his passion for the game by writing about it)