HENRY: Sammy the right man to lead Windies out of peril
West Indies' Darren Sammy walks from the pitch. AP Photo/Tom Hevezi
I sat up late over the weekend and watched the second Test between England and the West Indies. I sit up late and watch cricket from all over the world any time it’s on.
And there was the golf from Wentworth for channel flicking when Nasser Hussain’s turn came to be the ’3rd Man’ analyst.
Same weather down in Surrey as Nottinghamshire, same manicured turf, just a different ball game, which reminded me of how much I want the various football codes to get their competitions over with and give the grounds back to the boys of summer.
Two things struck me with this match.
Firstly, the sun shone the whole four days with nary a cloud to be spotted.
The weather looked perfect for cricket and reminds me so much of touring there as a player and enjoying England and its cricket grounds when the climate is like that.
You can understand why the game became popular and ingrained when blue skies reign, but the temperature never gets too hot, like an Adelaide Oval day in late January or the WACA with an easterly blowing in from the desert.
The fields and pitches are not too hard to make the feet beg for mercy or the knees and back wish for the footy season.
The mere thought of the MCG pitch soil (before the drop-ins) baking to black concrete brings back the northern summer evenings, long and languid, for post-match entertainment.
The second thing was that the West Indies had not improved from the series versus Australia only a few weeks before.
Yes, captain Sammy got a Test hundred, a quite valuable and typically constructed Darren Sammy occupation (well, more a chaotic rampage than an organised occupation) that quieted, but not silenced, some Caribbean critics who believe he simply is not good enough to play Test cricket.
But his value with the ball at first change seems limited and batting at 8 behind Carlton Baugh at home and now Denesh Ramdin indicates that he is neither a ‘batsmen who bowls’ nor a ‘bowler who bats’.
It is not easy to pigeonhole Darren Sammy on the basis of his cricket skills, but from the characteristics I saw up close in the Windies and now with the hundred, I see plenty I like about the man.
The first thing to do when examining Sammy is to look at the whole picture.
He has come along at a time when West Indies cricket is the proverbial dogs breakfast.
From the Chris Gayle imbroglio and Sunil Narine taking the IPL cash (with appropriate permission from WICB and his fellow players) to the state of administration, they have more problems than the early explorers.
And Darren Sammy has been appointed to navigate them through, if not out of, the wilderness.
He has done a pretty good job of attaining some respectability for his team in the eyes of the Windies fans and the world cricket watcher.
They are better than they were, but not better than last month.
Sammy, along with coach Otis Gibson, has the task of improving his own game and also that of his entire squad. The results in England suggest the former but not the latter.
The West Indies drew both the ODIs and the T20 against Australia. Both results were unexpected.
In the Test series, they were in front in all three matches.
The Australian tail won all three Test matches, ranging from Nathan Lyon’s 40 not and Ryan Harris’s 70 at Bridgetown, to Matthew Wade’s outstanding debut hundred in Dominica
The Windies had trouble knocking over the Australian tail, which doesn’t look quite as strong as England’s.
Narine would have made a difference with doosra and finger flicker, as he has done in KKR’s initial IPL title.
Which will be more important in the future to Narine: cash or country?
Sammy needs his negotiation skills to get Narine in the Windies team. It might help to have Gayle and Dwayne Bravo as well and then they have an XI which can go forward.
The problem arrives if the better all-rounder in Bravo does play Test cricket: where to put Sammy?
Not an easy choice to drop a captain who clearly isn’t the best player, but is the man for the time and who has raised the standard of his players a level or two but are not yet realising their potential.
He commands loyalty from the current group because he gives loyalty.
But he has to find a way to get them to put together a five day performance.
There is nothing more frustrating than competing with the best, winning some battles and then losing the war, as they did against Australia and now against England.
Geoff ‘Henry’ Lawson returns to The Roar with his first article since 2009. He joins our expert cricket writers, and will offer thoughts as the Australians take on all comers with one eye on the upcoming Ashes.
Geoff Lawson OAM is a former Australian cricketer and the former coach of the Pakistan cricket team. Nicknamed "Henry" after the Australian poet, Lawson was a fast bowler for New South Wales and Australia.
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