A prophet has no honour in his own land
by Renwick Rose
How appropriate is that saying regarding St Lucia and Windwards cricketer Darren Sammy, forced to give up the captaincy of the West Indies cricket team by an insensitive Board and President, considered surplus to the requirements of the regional team, and like several of his fellow-players on the regional team, not accommodated in their quest to use their skills internationally to earn a living while remaining faithful to the cause of the island and its fans!
Sammy has led the West Indies to two World Cup victories in the T20 variety, in Sri Lanka 2012 and latterly in India 2016. Only the legendary Clive Lloyd can match that record, having captained the victorious One-Day team to successive triumphs in the first two World Cups in 1975 and 1979. Lloyd in still highly regarded by cricket officialdom in the Caribbean.
Not so the smiling St Lucian, for although he came to the captaincy when West Indies cricket was in shambles with its leading players effusing the leadership, he never seemed to be fully embraced by the âbig-wigsâ of regional cricket. When he committed the apparently cardinal sin of exposing the shortcomings of the Board after the 2016 T20 championship, it was curtains for him.
But Sammy will not vanish into obscurity as some might have wished. He plies his trade in international T20 tournaments and his leadership skills are highly regarded in those knowledgeable circles. He was asked to lead Peshawar Qalmi in Pakistanâs national T20 tournament. This had to be played outside Pakistan, in the Middle East because of security concerns. Pakistan has been racked by terrorist violence this century, and it has even spilled over to cricket with the team bus of the Sri Lanka touring team being shot up in 2009, wounding several players. Since then Pakistan has been treated like a pariah in international cricket. Only Zimbabwe has dared to tour there and Pakistanâs cricket fans have been starved of international competition.
Sammy led Peshawar to the finals of the competition but Pakistanâs cricket administrators, desperate to please fans and to demonstrate that international cricket can be played there, fixed the final for Lahore, the countryâs second largest city. Immediately, the highly-paid stars on the team of Peshawarâs opponents, Quetta Gladiators, refused to travel to Lahore, citing security concerns, understandably so.
However, the brave St Lucian again demonstrated what leadership is, and his own mettle by deciding to lead his team in Lahore, ignoring the advice of cricket authorities, government travel advisories and insurance companies. His example was followed by fellow-Caribbean Marlon Samuels, Barbadian-born English player Chris Jordan and South African Dawid Malan. Their courage did not go unrewarded for Sammy brilliantly led his team to victory, over Quetta, which was mentored by Viv Richards.
Press reports on the match indicate how much the St Lucian is adored in Pakistan. In choosing to play in Lahore, Sammy had said that he was doing it “to bring back the smilesâ to cricket fans there. So, when he went up to receive the trophy, the crowd erupted in appreciation this is how some writers described it:
“Who would have thought that the Lahore crowd would be chanting âSammy, Sammyâ? One had to be in Lahore to experience itâ.
“The trophy has been handed to Sammy. He simply owned the Gaddafi Stadium today. Look at his million-dollar smileâ.
“He cajoles his charges to perform to the best of their abilities, not under fear of reprimand, but because performing for captain Sammy matters that much to themâ.
The people of Pakistan can appreciate greatness, so much so that they have re-christened Sammy Darren Sammy Khan. Not so in his own backyard.