NEW DELHI: West Indian cricket over the decades has produced some absolute champions. Cricketers who have wowed the world with their incredible natural talent.
Over the years, West Indian cricket has seen a sharp drop in their performances, as they slid down the ICC rankings. In Tests, ODIs and T20s, the Caribbean team is currently ranked 8th, 9th and 9th respectively.
But one tournament they have done quite well in in recent times is the ICC T20 World Cup, winning the 2012 and 2016 editions. The man who captained both those teams was Darren Sammy.
Sammy is the only captain to have two T20 World Cup titles and has vast experience of playing franchise-based T20 cricket across the globe which includes stints in IPL, CPL, PSL and Global T20 Canada
The former West Indian captain though puts the Indian Premier League above the rest, saying IPL is the ‘Mecca’ of T20 cricket. He was also all praise for Suresh Raina and MS Dhoni.
Sammy, who is currently leading Saint Lucia Zouks in the Carribean Premier League (CPL), spoke about a wide variety of cricket topics in a candid chat with TimesofIndia.com.
You recently said that you are planning to make a comeback to the West Indies team after a four-year hiatus. How easy or difficult would it be for you to make a return to the national team set up?
I think when you put an article heading ‘Sammy wants to make a comeback’, I think the question was ‘Are you still available for the West Indies?’ and my response was I am not retired yet and I am playing in a tournament where performances puts you in contention for the selection, which is the Carribean Premier League (CPL). But like I have said, I am 36 years old and to be honest West Indies is not really on the forefront of my mind. My focus right now is with the Saint Lucia Zouks team. Having said that if I string in some great performances which will raise some eyebrows for the selectors they why not. But I am not going to bed thinking – ‘oh! I got to be back in the West Indies team’, that’s not really what’s on my mind.
After playing both in CPL and IPL for so long. What is the biggest difference according to you in both the leagues?
IPL is the ‘Mecca’ of T20 cricket while CPL is the ‘Mecca’ of entertainment in cricket. This year we had no funds but there is no experience like playing in CPL in front of a full house in the Carribean. In CPL, you have some of the biggest hitters and superstars of the world. IPL is the most lucrative in all of the leagues and it’s being played in India – a place where cricket is like a religion. Both have their own special identity. I have enjoyed playing in both the places.
What would you say is your happiest Indian memory?
I have had a few Indian memories in the IPL. Taking Sunrisers Hyderabad to the playoffs in 2013. The last league game against Kolkata Knight Riders and getting those winning runs was special. Playing against India is special as I remember a 2013 Champions Trophy match where Kemar Roach and I put on an unbeaten 51-run stand for the last wicket, and Roach didn’t score a single run in it. Also there is a game where I got the man of the match (award) and I think I scored 63 not out in Visakhapatnam. My greatest memory has been the people of India. The way they embrace cricket and the cricketers. And their passion and love for the game which gives you that energy and makes you enjoy playing cricket in India whether you win or lose.
You have been part of Saint Lucia Zouks since the inception of CPL in 2013. How good are the chances of the team winning the title in this current edition according to you?
I think our chances are as good as anybody else’s. At the end of the day you go out on the cricket field to win. What I could tell you is that I love the look of my team. I love the management and coaching staff we have and I love that my players have been bought with a method or the process which we need to win the matches. So far, the tournament has started well and you could see a change in the way we play. A lot of planning has gone into our discussions and preparations. We don’t have the superstars but we have the effectiveness and we will take that anyday over the star players.
MS Dhoni and Suresh Raina both retired on the same day. Your take on these two cricketers calling time on their international careers.
I know a lot of praises and best wishes have been going to MS Dhoni. But for me Suresh Raina is the nicest cricketer that I have ever met. Nicest international cricketer with full of grace, a very humble player and a very stylish batsman. Jonty Rhodes also rated him as the best fielder in the world. It’s important that we acknowledge his contribution to the game as well. I guess for Raina and Dhoni to bow out almost at the same time and on the same day, it shows the level of friendship and the level of respect that Raina has for Dhoni. India lost two great cricketers in the form of their retirement. Dhoni I think will be impossible to replace specially as a captain and Raina for the entertainment he has provided over the years with his strokeplay and his fielding and he was something that was entertaining and exciting to watch.
According to you how important is it for teams like West Indies, Sri Lanka and South Africa to improve their game so as to make international cricket more competitive?
It’s very important. If you have strong teams in the cricket world then the standard of the game will improve. You get more competitive matches and you discover new fans because of the excitement that it will bring. But we all know that some of the big teams hamper the finance of the lesser teams. Some of the big players are not being available and people are leaving the game as well. And I think it’s that the ICC should revisit the process the way they share the revenues and invest some more or put some more cash to the lesser teams so that the players get motivated and moreover they don’t have to miss out or make a choice between international cricket and T20 cricket. We just witnessed the West Indies going to England and you just heard that the West Indies helped England save 280 million pounds for the summer. While West Indian players barely make 500,000 pounds, So there is a massive discrepancy in the fees and the money that’s been made in the Boards. That’s the area which could stabilise our cricket.
You are the only captain to have won the T20 World Cup twice – in 2012 and in 2016. Are you eyeing a hat-trick in the 2021 T20 World Cup in India?
Most importantly, West Indies would be eyeing a hat-trick. I mean if Pollard and the guys could go down there and defend the T20 World Cup title, that would definitely set West Indies side as the best T20 team in the world. We have two world titles that make us the best but with three of them would set us way apart from the rest.