In one end of the globe, Australia and India are embroiled in a serious Test series. Meanwhile, New Zealand and Sri Lanka have just contested in a record-shattering Test in some distant part.
And in another part of the world, known as Down Under, the women are playing the Big Bash League, setting a tempo of equality to a game often defined by muscular power and brute stroke-making.
Miles away from Australia, however, the West Indies are trying to make something out of a dismal Bangladesh tour.
Where’s Sammy today?
And several nautical miles away from any of this live cricketing extravaganza, a two-time World Cup winner, a dashing hero of a format that’s as in-sync with the current structure of cricket as is the melange of white-shirt to blue denim, Darren Sammy is celebrating his 35th birthday.
What could be exciting is that among the many widely admired cricketers, an affable soul is celebrating his birth anniversary. What’s immensely saddening is that he’s doing so being several yards away from the cricket field, a place he much rather seems to belong.
Now, imagine if you were a fictitious guest attending what would, knowing Sammy, have been a spunky Caribbean party, you’d have delved deep into the heart of a man who could be found dancing away to peppy tunes, setting a chill Calypso mood with his familiar enthusiasm, arguably masking the sadness of not wearing the Caribbean jersey, hiding behind the veil of a cool party animal.
He used to wear bling. Yet, he wasn’t obsessed about glib. He danced with Dwayne Bravo on a number that sort of defined a generation of West Indian cricketers at that time- 2016 ICC World Cup, their struggle story etched in the ecstatic Caribbean rhythm- and yet, didn’t seem possessed by the glamour of T20s alone.
He emoted, felt, laughed, smiled, seemed upset, appeared perplexed on the cricket field and yet, didn’t seem contained by the changing vagaries of emotions in a game. He held his head high and above the outcome of a game.
Do not be mistaken.
Darren Sammy wasn’t some Bodhisattva.
Nor was he ever found meditating before stepping onto or post exiting the cricket field.
But even in the constant idiosyncracies that defined the contests he was a part of, he was able to carry on and remain unperturbed by the eventuality.
His smiles were honest and pure. He didn’t know the meaning of playing unfairly. Retorts and verbatim weren’t him.
Yet, he retained a sense of authenticity at a time where cricket went from being a gentleman’s game into being a constantly scrutinized foreplay between a PR-regimented part of the game and one that was sullied by match-fixing.
When he’d be disgusted by a bowling effort or let down by a batting effort, he’d show grimace on the face but wouldn’t puncture the feeling of his team.
He wasn’t a shallow cricketer.
In fact, the only occasion where it did seem he was extremely pissed off was when, prior to the start of a T20 contest- ICC World T20, 2014- Jimmy Faulkner remarked, “I don’t like the West Indies. They do not appeal to me.”
What one remembers and profoundly so, from that game is that a flat hit; a powerful bottom-handed whip of Darren Sammy that sent Australia out of the stadium, and with it, Faulkner’s needless diatribe.
Other than that occasion, Sammy remained a bit of a rarity in complete contrast to the era he was a part of.
Yet it is surprising, that it was the occurrence of an agonizing conflict, one too many, between the board and the players, a phenomenon that initially occurred on a few occasions during Lara’s heydays in the late nineties, became frequent during Gayle and Bravo’s reign, came to consume Sammy’s career.
This is when nothing that Sammy did particularly in the summers of 2016- speaking out publically against the mistreatment his players got from a largely self-centered board (according to most observers)- was anywhere a lie or remotely an indication of one.
Yet, today, as one examines at the contemporary culture concerning Darren Sammy, or should one say the hype, it’s a bit unsettling that a majority of the fanfare that’s collected is for his leadership skills, not really because of his cricketing achievements.
Hell, how would the latter even be true? Sammy’s, after all, a career that doesn’t boast of eye-shattering achievements.
The impact Darren Sammy really had
For instance, it’s really surprising that despite possessing a stellar captaincy record no legend like Ponting, Waugh, Ganguly, Dhoni commanded in the game, they don’t have a street, avenue or arcade named after them while Sammy- 0 centuries from 126 ODIs, a Test average of 21, only 14 fifties from a collective of 164 games (Tests+ODIs) combined- has a stadia named in his honor.
For a two-time T20 winning captain, who led his troops to the throne of T20 ascendancy on two glorious occasions- ICC World T20, 2012 and 2016- it’s amazing that Sammy’s scored no fifties ever from 68 T20 contests.
Yet, it seems, there are cricketers who are defined by a statistical narrative and those, marked by an impact lying beyond the sphere of cricketing math.
And it seems, Darren Sammy was that precious gem whose success can be measured by the impact he had in shaping a collective, in orchestrating an effort he brought out from a Windies cricketing core that had substance, not only flair, and for being a man who gave a voice to a core group that, effectively seemed saddled in flamboyance and gym-honed physiques.
Years down the line, Sammy’s dainty statistical gatherings may simply become stuff worthy of being shoved under the carpet.
But it won’t be possible to undermine his greatness that truly came out in his passion of helping other talents- Bravo, Pollard, Narine, Russell- understand theirs.