“It hurts man, it hurts.” Darren Sammy’s eyes, the sad smile tells it all the moment he was asked about the terminal decline of West Indies cricket.
The Caribbean team hit the nadir at the ongoing T20 World Cup as the two-time champions (2012 and 2016) couldn’t even qualify for the Super 12s.
As a double T20 World Cup-winning skipper, Sammy is bound to be frustrated and angry. But at the same time, he is pragmatic enough to understand the practical difficulties which includes not enough financial security offered by Cricket West Indies (CWI).
Sammy is very clear that unlike BCCI, the West Indies board can never stop its players from choosing franchise leagues over playing for the assortment of island nations.
“India is strong because they can tell their players that you don’t play anywhere else. You have to understand that they have the money to back it up,” Sammy told PTI in an exclusive interview on what ails West Indies cricket.
“An India A list contracted player could probably make a million dollar a year (Rs 7 crore plus match fees plus TV rights money) compared to a Windies A lister, who would earn $150,000 (Rs 1.2 crore roughly) .
“That’s a massive difference and obviously the question of pay (disparity) will always come up. It’s very difficult for smaller boards (in terms of financial might) to keep their players together when they are handsomely paid elsewhere,” Sammy said without mincing words while hitting the nail on its head.
A sportsman’s peak period is a short one and it’s no longer an amateur sport where passion was the biggest ration for men in flannels.
“Gone are those days when you played for love. Love doesn’t buy you groceries from supermarket,” said Sammy bluntly.
He feels that CWI can learn a thing or two from how New Zealand Cricket has dealt with this dilemma.
“So, it’s a tough period. I think NZC does it quite well (no international cricket scheduled during IPL). If NZC can do it, it comes down to communication. It’s upto the players and the boards to get a working system.”
A commitment in a professional relationship demands certain kind of sacrifices.
“If you say, you are committed to me (player to board or vice versa), then some level of sacrifice has to happen. You can’t be committed to me when nothing else is available for you.”
Russell and lack of communication
Players like Andre Russell didn’t take part in the T20 World Cup and one of IPL’s big buys, current skipper Nicholas Pooran, didn’t look half the player he is.
Sammy feels that communication is a two-way street and both Russell and CWI have to come on the same page.
“I think it cuts both ways (referring to the communication gap). But one also needs to show the desire to play. Desire is gauged by action.
“I can say ‘I want to play, I want to play’ but if my actions don’t show that, obviously there will be communication gap,” Sammy said in a message for Russell.
“I don’t know what kind of communication happened among guys like Russell, Fabien Allen and Cricket West Indies but it wasn’t good enough. But then in CPL we have had young players who have outshone Russell and Co,” said the former skipper, who feels that no one is indispensable.
Playing only leagues can have negative effect
Sammy knows a thing or two about winning T20 World Cups and he strongly believes that being a star freelancer in global leagues can make you the most sought after player but it certainly has its pitfalls while playing occasional T20Is for the country.
“I don’t know what motivates them (players) but one thing I know for sure. When West Indies won two T20 World Cups in 2012 and 2016, in that phase our domination was because all our top T20 players were still regularly playing international cricket.
“Some were playing Test matches and a lot of them were playing ODIs. Facing international bowlers was always there,” he elaborated.
A classic example for Sammy is Englishman Alex Hales, who has been a star in T20 leagues (not IPL) but after a long layoff is having problems adjusting in international cricket.
“You can play ‘n’ number of leagues but it is hard to play T20 leagues for long time and one fine day appear for your national team and expect that you will create magic. That doesn’t happen.
“Take the example of Alex Hales. For four years, he faced franchise bowling and as good a player Alex is, at international level, you have three to four bowlers always on song. To play that high level, you have to practice at that high level.”
Playing for Caribbean nations not solution
What hurts Sammy is the lack of pride while wearing that iconic maroon West Indies jersey.
“For decades, it was our thing. When we came to T20 World Cups, win or lose, we had that fear factor in our jersey Numbers. The teams knew that they would have to bring their A game.
“But that’s not the case at the moment. To think of a West Indies team not among the top 12 of a T20 World Cup is unimaginable.”
So, will playing for Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana at least in T20Is can be a solution considering there will be some pride associated with playing for the flag?
Sammy outrightly rejected the idea.
“No, I don’t think that will work as West Indies have too much history to be disintegrated into island nations. Also, a practical difficulty is that all the islands don’t have enough quality players to play for the nation,” he concluded.