Hashim Amla, Tamim Iqbal, Paul Collingwood, David Miller, Darren Sammy, Thisara Perera … they came out in line, having played their part in what was possibly the most historic series of cricket matches in a long, long time, even if it wasn’t quite ‘international’ enough to please everyone. Waiting to greet them was Dave Cameron. Whoa! Sammy, who seemed to not have realised that Cameron would be the one handing out medals to the World XI players, turned around, seemed to say something to Perera, and dropped out of the line. A moment later, as the queue reformed, Sammy, in an easy-to-spot bright yellow shirt, sprinted back to the change room at the Gaddafi – no commemorative medal for him, not from old Whycliffe for certain.
“I’ve always said that if Jesus Christ walked this earth and did nothing wrong and was still crucified, who am I?” Sammy is fond of declaring. He had taken to saying it well before Cameron’s final nail.
“I see a man unfailingly polite, smiling, up for a high-five and a hug and a joke; I see a man with limited ability having forged a career someone else with the same skills might not have pulled off. I see a man of dignity and grace. Sammy is one of the great ambassadors of the modern game. Travelling the world – to Pakistan too, more often than most other freelance cricketers. And he is in great demand, as he deserves to be.”
To be fair, after the World T20 2016, where he led Windies to the title – for a record second time, not to forget – he was crucified; kicked out of the team, seemingly for good. “I’m yet to hear from our own cricket board; that is very disappointing,” Sammy had said after the win at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, about waiting for a congratulatory message from them.
The battle lines between the men who make up Caribbean cricket today and their boss had been drawn long before. Many dramatic twists and turns later, the board has recently extended amnesty, which has led to some warring cricketers coming back. Not Sammy.
Now, I wasn’t in Lahore for the World XI games, unfortunately, but many writers spotted the Sammy Snub all right. Some reports confirmed it. Another reported Sammy as saying afterwards that it was but a toilet break. Yeah, when you gotta go, you gotta go, the prize can wait.
However, I haven’t found a report saying Sammy came back as soon as he could to collect the medal, or that it was handed to him later. Irrespective, in ESPNcricinfo, Osman Samiuddin wrote: “Two voices from inside the World-XI dressing room, however, say that a snub is precisely what it was. Sammy, they say, does not want to have anything to do with Cameron.”
Staying away was all Sammy could do. Consider the alternatives. One, go up, say hello to all the other dignitaries, ignore Cameron, refuse to receive the medal from him, leave the stage. Two, go up, shake hands and collect the medal from Cameron as if he was, say, Najam Sethi. Non-options, I’d say.
Dave Cameron is not just another cricket administrator. There’s far too much history there.
Avoiding a scene altogether was definitely the most dignified thing to do, by my book at least. As was calling it a ‘toilet break’ rather than courting even more headlines by telling the truth.
Now, I don’t know what goes on in the backrooms of the game, and whether Sammy has undercut his peers and politicked once in a way, done ‘setting’ here and there. I know what I see, and I see a man unfailingly polite, smiling, up for a high-five and a hug and a joke; I see a man with limited ability having forged a career someone else with the same skills might not have pulled off. I see a man of dignity and grace.
He is today one of the great ambassadors of the modern game. Travelling the world – to Pakistan too, more often than most other freelance cricketers. And he is in great demand, as he deserves to be.
Sammy is 33-going-on-34. An average medium pacer for the best part of his career, he was a tad quicker once upon a time than he is now, when he is cannier and knows his craft more. I’ve never seen him move the ball around much, off the surface or in the air, but he knows his lines and his lengths (he always did), and his changes of pace. As a batsman with a Test century – one of two he has in first-class cricket – he is a decent No. 8 in days’ cricket and an excellent tonker from around the same number in limited-overs cricket.
He has also been Windies’ great leader in recent years – if results are what count, two World T20 titles should do it for Sammy.
Did he always deserve a place in the side in the 36 Tests he played? Perhaps not. He might well have kept out a better bowler, batsman or allrounder by being there, though the blame for that can hardly be placed at his door. I’ve heard it being said that when he led Windies, he pulled the team down further. That can be argued. I’d say he did his best, played his hand honestly, in one of the toughest times for the team; if anyone in Caribbean cricket had a better solution than Sammy at the time, I wonder why we didn’t see it.
At any rate, Sammy needed to be at Gaddafi more than Cameron did.
“It is hopefully a step in the right direction, where things could happen. What I can say is that being here felt like playing in St Lucia, playing in India or anywhere else in the world. And like I said at the toss, today I felt cricket was the winner,” he said after leading Peshawar Zalmi to the Pakistan Super League 2017 title – in Lahore – earlier this year. This series would not have been the same without him. It must also be said that world cricket could do with more people like Sammy.
Still, it’s Cameron who will work out bilateral cricket plans with the Pakistan board, and the immediate stability of Cricket West Indies depends in good part on him.
Sammy had called Cameron’s amnesty offer to some players as a step in the right direction, with the caveat, “whether it’s for the right reasons, time alone will tell”. And only time will tell if Sammy gets a chance to turn out for Windies again.
There is the history, of course. But also, Sammy isn’t indispensable for a team that might have Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell, Carlos Brathwaite and Jason Holder to choose from when it comes to medium-pace-bowling allrounders. One hopes that Sammy will find a role in Caribbean cricket in other ways at least. Johnny Grave, the new Cricket West Indies chief executive, has the stated objective of making the board more inclusive, and improving player relations with the aim of re-engaging cricketers within the system. One needs good people to make that happen, and they really don’t come much better than Sammy.