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Darren Sammy, delight of the press

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Darren_Sammy_West_Indies_cricketAs cricket journalists we attend many pre and post-match press conferences helmed by cricketers. The pre conferences are basically about what could go right or wrong for a team, and the post ones are about what went right or wrong. Yes, mostly they are as boring as they sound, especially in a long tournament where most players say the same things in different voices, recorded onto our dictaphones. The duration of a tournament also has the effect of the drying up interesting questions from the press and interesting answers from the players.

However, there are a few exceptions and one of those is Darren Julius Garvey Sammy.

If not “Julius” and “Garvey,” his middles names could easily be “Interesting” “Witty” and “Funny”. In an era where social media rules the roost and those in the public eye are judged for everything they say or do, Sammy is very different from the rest of his tribe. He is clearly not in the category of let’s-keep-it-short-and-simple.

 

Most cricketers are very watchful of what they say in front of the press and are usually guided by the media managers hired by their cricket boards. The West Indies T20 skipper, in contrast, is a scribe’s delight. This is the reason there is always a buzz around most of his press conferences. In fact, if his pressers were to be advertised as a 15-minute entertainment (which many journalists will vouch they are), its tagline could well be -- Starring Sammy.

It’s not that the questions asked are any different from what journalists ask other players. It’s Sammy’s sense of humour and wit that gives it the zing, usually missing when other cricketers speak from the same platform.

For example, on the eve of the final of the ICC T20 World Cup when a routine question about the pitch at the Eden Gardens and how he saw it affecting his side’s chances was asked, Sammy said “It’s just a 22-yards long wicket and six-feet wide.” This was enough to leave the whole room in splits.

In the pre-match press conference in Mumbai, before the semi-final clash against the hosts, he described his team as the ‘David’ in the David-Goliath battle. When asked if they maintain the same status, as they boast of some of the biggest T20 stars compared to England, he retorted, “We're always David. David is a winner,” he said, joining in the laughter.

When asked about the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses, most in his place don’t mind giving drabber replies to an already drab question. Sammy, however, always tries to add his bit to make it a little less boring. After praising England and how well they had done before the final, he went on to add, “I know we will win in the celebration part.”

 

Sammy doesn’t hold back even to the sensitive questions, unlike most cricketers who prefer to be diplomatic, and would only speak after achieving their final objective. When asked to comment on Mark Nicholas calling West Indies “short of brains,” Sammy expressed his disgust. “How could you describe people with no brains? Even animals have brains. We’re not an object and for me that comment really set us off,” he said. “You’ve seen my talking about it. It’s really emotional for somebody who I respect, and have a good rapport with generally, to describe our team who two years ago were world champions as guys with no brains, that’s really out of order. God don’t love the ugly, and we are very wonderful and beautifully made, that’s why we play exciting cricket.” 

It is this trait of calling spade a spade, no matter what, that earns him admirers off the field. While Nicholas’ comments seemed a little harsh, Sammy acknowledged that this was because of the way the men in maroon have performed in whites.

“I think the way we've played in Test cricket really filters down to the other two formats,” he said. “Our Tests results, to be fair, haven't really been good. It hurts all of us to see a side that once dominated for 17 consecutive years ... for lack of proper management and structure and development, we've struggled for over two decades. And people paint us as money-grabbing cricketers because of our success in T20 cricket.”

It’s not just the journalists who love Sammy; even the sports photographers like him for the kind of expressions they get from him. He gave them some special expressions again on the eve of the final. Most captains would hold the trophy together spotting a sober smile. Sammy did the less usual thing during the photo opportunity. He snatched the trophy from England’s skipper Eoin Morgan, leaving the latter and all present sharing the laugh and making for a fantastic photograph and a fantastic moment.



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