CASTRIES, St Lucia, CMC – Former West Indies Cricket Board chief executive Ernest Hilaire has branded Darren Sammy’s axing as Test captain as “premature”.
Hilaire, an often controversial and straight-talking administrator, told HTS Channel Four here that Sammy had been appointed to carry out the specific task of rebuilding the regional team, but contended that process had not yet been completed.
Last Friday, the WICB sacked Sammy as captain after nearly four years in charge, in favour of wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. Sammy subsequently retired from the Test game.
“As to whether it (sacking) is the best timing, personally I think it is premature. I think there was always an understanding that Darren was going to be interim as a new team was being built and that he was going to lead the interim and rebuilding phase until the team had reached a stage and had the players that would constitute what one could call the ideal team structure,” said Hilaire, who stepped down from the WICB in 2012 after three years in charge.
“As to whether the West Indies have reached that stage, I don’t think so. I still don’t think they have all the requirements in place where they can move in that direction and therefore it is probably premature to have removed Darren as captain, and certainly discarded of him as even a player.
“But that’s what it is and that’s what the selectors have informed him and he acted in a manner which the thought was in his best interest.”
Sammy led West Indies in 30 of his 38 Tests, finishing with eight wins, 12 defeats and ten draws. A vibrant and well-respected personality, Sammy was credited for returning discipline and stability to the West Indies side.
However, with a batting average of 21 and a bowling average of 35, his place in the side came under constant scrutiny. And with the Test side suffered heavy defeats away to India and New Zealand last year, more pressure was brought to bear on Sammy’s position. Hilaire, who is now St Lucia’s High Commissioner to London, said it was evident Sammy’s decision to retire stemmed from an understanding he was no longer in the future plans of selectors. “There seems to be view that Sammy was told by the selectors that they had changed their direction as it relates to selecting the team,” said Hilaire, who presided over one of the most turbulent periods in West Indies cricket.
“They wanted to move to specialist bowlers and specialist batsmen and in that context, they felt he no longer had a pick on the team and could no longer be captain and therefore Ramdin was going to assume the captaincy.”
He continued: “Now if you’re told there are no plans for you as a player or as a captain, it is time for you to move on, and against the background Darren announced his retirement and of course Ramdin was announced as captain.”
Despite Sammy’s modest record as skipper, Hilaire said the Windward Islands all-rounder had a made an outstanding contribution, especially at a time when the sport in the region was at the crossroads.
“I think there will always be people who know cricket, who know the sport and who can see what has happened and the contribution Darren has made,” Hilaire contended.
“Darren came in when there was turmoil. The senior players were not available, they had chosen instead to go and play cricket in other parts of the world. “There was a lot of disenchantment, there was a lot of disappointment and he brought some stability, he brought some pride, he brought some honour to West Indies cricket and the leadership as a whole. He brought something refreshing.”