Once upon a time the news proclaiming the appointment of a new captain of the West Indies would be a world event, but the low-key greeting given to the announcement of Darren Sammy as captain, told a story both how far the West Indies have fallen and about Sammy himself.
Some all-time greats of world cricket have inhabited the role down the years, and in that respect Sammy fails to match up-though few would.
But Sammy is an intriguing choice as skipper, he has never been a Test regular and his stats suggest he is far from the West Indies’ best player. But if that was the criteria for captaincy then Chris Gayle would have retained the captaincy or Dwayne Bravo could have inherited the role.
Yet their status as the team’s leading players has also caused its own problems, with both involved in disputes with the WICB which has ultimately cost them both their claims for the captaincy as well as Dinesh Ramdin and Jerome Taylor.
Of the remaining candidates Sammy is the standout choice; both as a committed and passionate player for the West Indies but also an experienced captain with the Leeward Islands. These qualities will be important as he leads a younger generation of West Indian cricketers forward.
But it also lays down a marker for the younger players to follow. Sammy’s commitment to the West Indies’ will be total, could either Bravo or Gayle who have both embroiled themselves in rows with their board and are IPL-contracted.
The potential for further trouble down the line is not what the West Indies need as they look to rebuild with younger players like Adrian Barath and Kemar Roach.
A stable structure and leadership, after years of captaincy ruled as much by a player’s status more than a coherent strategy, is what is desired and it is precisely this ideal which has led the West Indies to Sammy, who of all the remaining candidates has the most captaincy experience-gained with the Windward Islands-and international experience.
The experience with the Windward Islands is key because unlike recent captains like Brian Lara and Gayle, Sammy has regular experience of captaincy and can lead with imagination and confidence, not to mention provide leadership of a team which have badly missed it as their fortunes have stuttered.
But he also has experience captaining a young team with some success. The Windward Islands are traditionally one of the smallest and unsuccessful teams in the Caribbean, but under Sammy’s captaincy, a number of their players have developed into international cricketers.
Recent graduates include Shane Shillingford, Andre Fletcher and Nelon Pascal who have all been involved in West Indies teams in the past year, though Fletcher is missing from the squad in Sri Lanka.
It is these qualities which make the appointment of Sammy a sensible one for the West Indies.
He fits the profile as a safe candidate whose attentions will be focussed solely on improving his team’s fortunes, boasts significant captaincy experience and has also dealt with younger players who make a significant part of this West Indies squad.
The key for both the West Indies and for Sammy is that they are patient in their expectations of this captaincy, as tangible change or even progress will take time to be achieved after years of regression.
The West Indies’ potential for success and producing talented cricketers capable of impacting on the world stage remains in place, yet they have not had the stable environment to help these players develop.
Results may not come immediately, and this is the vital point for any plans in the future, but the selectors must trust their decision and back Sammy. His appointment may lack sparkle compared to his illustrious predecessors but in the circumstances it could turn out to be the sensible choice.