Contrary to popular perception, Darren Sammy wasn’t public enemy number one for everyone in the Caribbean during his enigmatic reign as Test captain. The affable St Lucian had his share of admirers, even in Jamaica where he was often derided for being the man responsible for the impasse that kept Chris Gayle out of the team.
“Keep on doing what you’re doing Sammy,” his supporters would croon as their man pegged away on a length around off stump. The Sammy fan club must have called upon the popular Ernie Smith reggae number last week as the 30-year-old pulled the curtain on his career in whites.
In many ways, it encapsulated what Sammy was all about and the legacy he leaves behind. For Sammy just kept doing what he had to do, trying his best to lead the West Indies out of a hole, shutting out the incessant criticism and denigration that hung around him like an albatross.
Sammy was always an outsider — the first St Lucian to represent the West Indies, the management stooge, the captain but not the best player in the team unlike those before him, neither a larger than life superhero like Sobers or Richards nor a father figure like Lloyd.
Ironically, Sammy managed to accomplish what a succession of high-profile skippers had failed to do. He galvanised a fractured unit and also ended up winning the respect of his peers, even those within his dressing room. Sammy epitomised the free-spirit and vivacity of the Islands with an infectious enthusiasm on the field.
Off the field, he remained charming as ever. Even when he did succeed, there were no signs of an ‘I’ll show em’ vendetta.
His numbers as captain weren’t too bad either. In May 2011, he led West Indies to their first Test win in two years. A year later, he led them to six straight victories, a run not seen since the heady days of the ’80s.
His critics will rejoice his departure, claiming the West Indies can finally field a more balanced Test XI. It won’t affect Sammy. He shall keep doing what he does best, entertaining crowds, even if only in coloured clothing henceforth.
Bharat is a principal correspondent based in Mumbai