Darren Sammy As Santa
By Roger Sawh
The West Indies Captain, Darren Sammy, recently said that he wants to bring some joy to the people of the Caribbean for the holiday season (in the wake of a thoroughly embarrassing performance in the second test match versus New Zealand). This got me thinking: if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that Darren Sammy wants to be Santa Claus! In light of that, as all good believers in Santa do, I’ve written Jolly Old Saint Sammy a letter professing one fan’s needs for Christmas:

Santa Claus Darren Sammy.

Dear Santa Sammy,
Merry Christmas! I know you must be busy, with December 25th just a few days away, but I wanted to get this letter to you as quickly as I could so that maybe, just maybe, you could squeeze my requests onto your list of gifts for all the good little followers of Caribbean Cricket.

Firstly, I want to promise you that I’ve been a good fan all year long, no matter what has happened. It’s been a hectic twelve months for the team: you went to Australia in January/February (and lost all 5 ODIs, but then won the only T20), played Zimbabwe in the Caribbean in February/March (and won all the ODIs, T20s and tests – hooray!), didn’t make it out of the Champions Trophy group stages in England in June, didn’t make it to the final of the tri-series you hosted with India and Sri Lanka in June/July, lost both the ODI and T20 series to Pakistan in the Caribbean in July, got annihilated in India for Sachin’s farewell in November, and finally were beaten comprehensively in the second test in New Zealand after miraculously (and luckily) drawing the first. With one final test to go (and then some ODIs and T20s stretching in to early 2014), I can promise I’ll be watching and rooting for the boys – and even if I don’t, I probably still deserve some pretty great gifts just for sticking by the team through 2013.

Alright Chris Gayle…I mean Chris Cringle…I mean Santa Sammy…it’s time for my list! Just a word of warning before I begin – the fans of the West Indies are a varied bunch, so my choices don’t necessarily mean that everyone would want the same thing. I know it’s tough to keep the masses happy, but the main goal is to attain the best results for WI cricket. All the good little boys and girls have that at heart. While this list has items for specific players and for fans in general, it’s all meant to help our West Indies team be better…2013 was rough, we deserve a merry 2014. Alright, here’s goes nothing:

1) A proper, dependable, test-oriented batting line up: I know that we have talent, but it’s just not working right Santa. We keep on getting decimated, no matter the format, no matter the conditions – we simply don’t have consistency (except for Shiv, and he won’t be around forever). Powell and Bravo are our two brightest potential stars, and we’ve got to surround them with experience and capability. Edwards and Deonarine haven’t really grabbed their chance to be in the team permanently, and Samuels has blown hot-and-cold recently (and shown technical flaws). I don’t know who you’ll bring on your sleigh to make things better, but things just aren’t good enough right now. The players you bring ought to have an airtight technique to bat for long periods – given how the past few tests have gone, we need to take matches beyond day 3 to begin, and grow from there.

2) Better (and smarter) fast bowling: We have some injuries right now, I know. Roach and Rampaul are sidelined, which means that Tino and Gabriel are the best we can do for pure fast bowlers – that is just not good enough. Maybe pick a group of 8-10 of our best quicks, and just have them form a strong and mutually supportive unit. Imagine Roach, Rampaul, Best, Holder, Cotterell, Gabriel, Fidel Edwards, and two or three other up-and-comers, together in training as a bowling group from now up to the 2015 World Cup. If you throw in a superb bowling coach (I’ll get to that shortly), and have them spend a ton of time at our High Performance Centre and in clinics with great fast-bowlers of the past (like Ambrose, Bishop and Holding) to coach them mentally and strategically , then I’d be happy to say we’ve done our best.

3) Make Otis Gibson the bowling coach, get a better batting coach, and appoint a new head coach: Otis Gibson has done a fairly good job in his tenure as head coach (and I’ve not always been a big fan, so my saying that is quite a compliment), but given the debacle of India and New Zealand, where we’ve lost by an innings inside 3 days in a disgustingly regular fashion, his time has come – new year, new start. I think he’d be a great bowling coach, as he was for England, but if he doesn’t want to stay in the current structure, that’s understandable. Stuart Williams is our batting coach right now; bless him, I’m sure he has tried, but our team was an abject failure in the batting department – we surely can find someone better to take that seat. I want us to have a different head coach, someone who will perform an Andy Flower-like role – a general, a tactician. I don’t have a bunch of names in mind, but Phil Simmons, who has done a splendid job with Ireland, is the kind of guy I’m thinking of. The West Indies team has had some bad history with foreign coaches in the recent past, but I wouldn’t totally rule it out as an option – given how many of our guys play worldwide T20 cricket now, a foreign coach might be more accepted than ever. Speaking of T20 cricket…

4) Address the T20 elephant in the room: We are among the world’s best in T20 cricket, and yet we have been pathetic in ODIs and tests – the problem might have a lot to do with the mindset of some of our players. Gayle, Samuels, and yourself, Santa, come to mind, with T20 dimensions creeping into your test and ODI games from time to time, reflecting some irresponsibility from senior faces. Let’s address the T20 elephant in the room – get an IPL window for our players, grow the Caribbean Premier League into a great (and financially rewarding) opportunity for our local talent, and then spend time and resources to fix the other areas of our cricket. Have many more A team tours, longer first class seasons, much better facilities (including exponentially improved pitches), and invest heavily in our youth-oriented programs – look at foreign models and make a working one for us! Since T20 won’t go away, let’s embrace it and use the financial flexibility it gives us to maximize growth. Somehow, our cricket has to embrace T20 and use it as a means to the greater end of making the West Indies team, no matter the format, world-class.

5) Take Santa Sammy out of the test team: Big guy, you need some tough love – it’s over. Just like Head Coach Gibson’s last straw should be this horrific tour period, it should be yours too. I have no objections to your captaincy of the T20 outfit or to your presence in the test squad, but the whole test captaincy thing is over. Experts have said it, fans have said it (again, not unanimously, but many have) – while your ability to amalgamate the group is unique and welcomed, it isn’t enough to justify your spot in the team. I’d personally like to give it to Ramdin and let him get a lease on it to the 2015 World Cup, but it can be anyone, so long as they make the best eleven game in and game out. You’re a wonderful trier, and you’ll go down as a decent captain who did a lot of good – even your firmest ‘haters’ will admit that you’ve made a difference. You should be in the team if and when conditions suit your skills; however, for the good of our test team as a total unit, your time as skipper is up I reckon.

6) A bunch of small gifts for the stockings: Put Jason Holder in the test team, he’s the next big thing in West Indies cricket (I think)! Let Shillingford have no bowling controversy so that he can keep bowling the doosra – it makes him so much better! Give Sunil Narine more chances at test cricket – he’s too good to not give a prolonged run in hopes that he’ll figure it out! Put Ramnaresh Sarwan and Jerome Taylor on the A team and hope that one or both of them becomes reinspired for international cricket! Make Kraigg Brathwaite and Adrian Barath fulfill their enormous potential! Let Shiv and his son play a test match together! I know that I’m stretching it now, but hey, you’re Santa, you have magical reindeer and visit the entire world in one night – if anyone can make these things happen, it’s you!

Well Jolly Old Saint Sammy, that’s all I’ve got for now. It’s a busy time for me too, so my list might be incomplete, but this is the best I can come up with at the moment.

I want to wish you and the whole crew up in the North Pole (which I assume is in St. Lucia somewhere) the very best for the holidays – may West Indies Cricket have great health and happiness for many years to come!

Merry Christmas and Happy 2014 Santa Sammy!

A true-blooded West Indies fan

Roger Sawh is a lifelong cricket fan who attends Law School at Queen’s University in Canada. A non-test leg spinner, his favorite cricketers are Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Shane Warne. When he isn’t pretending to be busy with books, he’s either watching cricket (or basketball), reading about cricket (or basketball), stressing about his next move in fantasy cricket (or basketball), or pursuing his newest hobby – writing about cricket (and not basketball) for www.wicricketgroup.blogspot.com