Bitter but not unnerved by the “lack of respect” for his team even back home, West Indies captain Darren Sammy today said the side’s stupendous ICC T20 World Cup 2016 run has been possible because of the players’ unity in the face of acute adversity.
The West Indians almost did not make it to the World T20 owing to a bitter pay dispute with their Cricket Board. But once here, they showed sublime form to storm into tomorrow’s final where they will take on England.
“People just paint us as money grabbing cricketers because of our success in Twenty20 cricket. But yes still they don’t respect us in that format. We get that sometimes from our own board,” Sammy said in the pre-match press conference.
Blasting their critics, Sammy said the more they are castigated, the more they are united. He was reacting to a jibe by former English cricketer Mark Nicholas, who described the Windies players as “short of brains” in an article.
“How could you describe people with ‘no brains’? Animals got brains. We’re not an object. To me that particular comment really set it off for us. You could see me talking about it. It’s kind of emotional, as for somebody whom I respect and had good rapport with that particular gentleman. To describe our team who were defending champions four years ago as we guys with no brains is really out of order,” Sammy said.
“Everybody is entitled to their opinion. You guys ask most difficult questions to get a good story. We understand that. The key for us is the belief in our own circle. Whatever they say it does not really matter.”
“Gods don’t love the ugly and we’re very wonderful and very beautiful men that’s why we play exciting cricket. For us all these things have happened before the tournament. That’s the passion, determination that we take on the field. It’s one more step. We believe that we could do it,” he added.
Sammy said the contract row with their Board, WICB, in the lead up to the big event, has actually brought the players together.
“It’s been a tough journey. A lot happened before the tournament started but I always believed everything happens for a reason. I think the pre-tournament shenanigans brought us really closer together as a team. I don’t know whether you have heard it. It feels like it’s us against everybody else.
“All these things bring us closer. The fact is few of us are old now so we are aware this could be the last for a few of our key players. That brought us together and we formed our own circle,” he said.
Semifinalists in 2009, the West Indies emerged champions in 2012 and lost to Sri Lanka on D/L method in a rain-interrupted match in Bangladesh in 2014 in the last edition.
“We came here after winning a tournament in 2012. A hailstorm knocked us out in Bangladesh. The year before we were in the semis (in 2009). It’s a format we’ve been consistent but nobody gives us a chance,” Sammy said.
Simplifying their approach, he said: “We just wanted to take six steps. It’s a six step process to the Cup. We have taken five steps. We took a big one against India. We had a bit of a skid on the way which kind of knocked us off but we got up. We are left with one more step.
“We have improved, we believe in each other. We enjoy enjoy each others success. Just thinking about lifting that Cup tomorrow, I could almost foresee what’s going to happen after. We have a cricket game to play first,” he said stressing on the reality.
Sammy further said they would like to be called David and not Goliath in tomorrow’s contest against England.
“We always are David. David is a winner. Even now I still think people don’t give us a chance. Goliath is big and strong but David defeated him with a sling and one shot. We will always see ourselves as David. We will play like David, be smart about it. Believe in ourselves in the dressing room. Believe in its order. If we do all these things we know we could do with that belief, we’re going to lift the Cup.”
They may have faced criticism for their lack of ability to rotate the strike but Sammy warned their opposition saying that they believe in their ability to clear the ropes, something they had displayed in full vigour while eliminating India en route to their seven-wicket win in the semi-final.
“We talk about that but we know we are a boundary-hitting teams. Firstly, you have got to stop us from hitting boundaries. That’s been a difficult for opposition once we get into that zone. So it’s about keeping us in right direction.
For us, it’s one last step in the tournament. We are focussed on England. We are more focused on us. If we believe if we do what the West Indies can do, we will always be destructive in this format,” Sammy warned.
Sammy further said it would be about conquering themselves come tomorrow.
“Dwayne Bravo made a comment in the team meeting that the only thing we compete with is ourselves. We could only defeat ourselves. Once we know what we could do, nobody could beat us. That’s the mentality we have taken forward against England.”
In the tournament-opener the West Indies had hammered England by six wickets with Chris Gayle hitting an astonishing 48-ball unbeaten 100 but a modest Sammy acknowledged that Englishmen have come a long way to seal the final berth.
“England are a very good side. Since we beaten them they have played really good cricket, that’s why they’re in the finals. I want cricket to be the winner. After cricket has taken all the craze, I want the West Indies to come out victorious.
He however conceded that their form in the Test format was something to worry about as they had dominated in the past.
“I think it’s the way we played in Test cricket. It really filters down to the two formats. Our Test results have not been all that good. It hurts all of us to see a side that once dominated 17 consecutive years. But through lack of proper management and structural development, we struggled over two decades.”
Asked about the wicket, Sammy said, “I just want 22 yards long wicket and six feet wide, whatever they give us we play. It’s final. Maybe later today I will see at it.”
But on a serious note he added: “Eden Gardens is a special place. It’s also a chasing ground as well. That’s what you want in a final. Two good teams battling it out fighting for their countries, for different causes in order to win that Cup.”