An appreciation of a cricketer who is average by all accounts and yet exceptional!
The bat is raised, ready to slap any delivery. It will come down with a swish. The ball, fearing a departure to territories afar, contorts in submission. For it is a slap and a tight one too.
If you’re hitting the ball, why not slam it? Your power has to be expended in full. Nothing less. If you can summon a bit more force, all the more welcome.
Darren Sammy has to be the most developed exponent of this view of batting. Arguably, its apotheosis!
There’s much fragility attached, however, to this destructiveness. Sammy’s approach to batting is not based on sound technique; he relies on his determination to excel.
The West Indian, thankfully, hasn’t been stricken by the curse of talent. But, unlike similarly untalented cricketers, the West Indian is a flasher. He doesn’t nurdle to get his runs, he slashes the willow. When successful, Sammy is a wonder to watch.
While watching him bat, it’s tough to not be amazed at the way he has been able to restrict his technical weaknesses. Don’t be quick to dismiss him as a batsman fit for Twenty20 cricket. Last year, Sammy scored 106 off 156 deliveries to bail West Indies out of trouble against England at Lord’s. Moreover, he has four half-centuries to his name in the longest format of the game.
A Test average of 22.38 is nothing to be ashamed of, considering Sammy bats lower down the order. His is a success which militates against the core principles of batting and yet, nobody seems to be complaining. Sammy transports us into a realm where not much is impossible.
Bewitched by his style, one doesn’t question the rationality of his strokes. Sammy provides us the opportunity to devour an entertaining fare and we don’t complain. When he is at the crease, gluttony prevails.
But, there’s more to him. For all his menacing assaults on the ball, there’s a glistening smile on Sammy’s face. Probably, it’s the smile which transforms him into a delectable slayer.
The joyous laughter and the genteel grin are indicative of the joy the all-rounder brings to the game. The pleasant humour which surrounds Sammy like a halo is further complemented by his gentle medium-pacers.
When the 29-year-old bowls, the aggression of his batting is conspicuous by its absence. Only to the public eye, though. Sammy in no way loses his aggressive self and subtly plots the batsman’s departure. Unfortunately, his lack of pace hides his inner aggression and presents a calm demeanour to his ways.
Sammy’s cheerfulness, one would suspect, is a reflection of the Caribbean cricket tradition. West Indian players have been forever associated with certain playfulness. This attribute finds a place in Sammy’s varicoloured character too; manifest in almost everything he does inside a cricket ground.
His dance, mores associated with modern cricketers from the Caribbean, extends the joyful manifestation further. Let’s just call it “dance”, for it would be futile to name it anything else. Sammy’s not alone in this, though, as Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have probably bested him on this front.
The dance remains the glittering crown attached to the idea of Caribbean fun. It’s not the Calypso, but a spontaneous outpouring of happiness even when the achievement is minuscule— a catch or a wicket.
When the success is greater, we enjoy the privilege of being witnesses to the kind of revelry which occurred after West Indies won the World Twenty20 last year. The captain? Darren Sammy.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that West Indies’ performance has improved under his captaincy. Probably, leadership comes naturally to him. His middle name is Julius!
Going beyond such speculation, it really is a surprise that Sammy has done so well as a captain. His overall demeanour does nothing to suggest he could be a successful leader. He’s the sort of guy you go for a holiday with, not someone who you put in charge of a faltering team.
His success as a captain flummoxes you. The reason behind his success hides somewhere and refuses to surface. Sammy’s characteristic recklessness and exuberance certainly doesn’t figure in his captaincy. That part of his job requires a seriousness which he somehow seems to possess.
Somewhere within his soul, lies a ‘Captain Sammy’. It would be great to know more about him but, sadly, we seldom speak of him.