Clayton Murzello: Hello captain, you've been sacked

Published: 11 August, 2016 07:50 IST | Clayton Murzello |

West Indies’ T20 skipper Darren Sammy got the boot in 30 seconds, but greats like Gavaskar, Venkat and Lawry probably had it worse

A lot can happen in 30 seconds. Ask Darren Sammy, who was informed of his sacking as the West Indies’ Twenty20 captain in a half-a-minute conversation with chief selector Courtney Browne last week.

The West Indies selectors have suddenly become ruthless. Even in an Australian set-up that prides itself on performance, a captain would not have been sacked after winning two World T20 titles; the last one four months ago. In fact, Sammy has not played for the West Indies after that triumph over England at the Eden Gardens. Clearly, international runs and wickets (which, to be fair, Sammy has not amassed a lot of lately) matter much more than being the glue for a seriously dangerous limited overs outfit.

Darren Sammy, who was sacked as WI’s T20 skipper last week. Pic/Getty Images
Darren Sammy, who was sacked as WI’s T20 skipper last week. Pic/Getty Images

Former WI team manager and ace sports psychologist Dr Rudi Webster (77), who is stretching every sinew of his ageing frame to pull West Indies out of an abyss of strife, won’t buy the official reason for the St Lucia stalwart’s sacking. He has no doubt that Sammy is a victim of the gun of revenge which the West Indies board has been holding ever since Sammy slammed them after the World T20 triumph in April.

I see a correlation to what happened to Bill Lawry in 1971 when the Australian was sacked after the drawn Test against England at Adelaide. Lawry had not set the Yarra river on fire, but 324 runs in 10 innings with a top score of 84 was not disastrous either. However, selectors Sir Don Bradman, Neil Harvey and Sam Loxton replaced Lawry with Ian Chappell.

Getting the captaincy surprised Chappell and his first reaction, when journalist Alan Shiell (his former South Australia teammate) called to deliver the news to him was, “S**t, you must be joking.” Chappell always felt that Lawry would be closely watched as soon as he wrote a letter to the Australian Cricket Board, insisting that the players be put up at top-class hotels when they tour overseas after experiencing an appalling time in India in 1969-70 when they beat MAK Pataudi’s Indians 3-1.

Australia had yet to lose the 1970-71 Ashes when the selectors dumped Lawry and sacking a captain during a Test series was unprecedented in the history of Australian cricket. Lawry drowned his sorrows by spending time with his much-loved pigeons on his arrival in Melbourne. However, when Chappell returned home from work, he was greeted with congratulations from his then wife Kay. And then, Australia’s 34th Test captain responded by saying, "The b**t**ds will never get me like they got Bill." True to his word, Chappell did not give the selectors/Board a chance to sack him. At the end of an Ashes-winning series on English soil in 1975, he told his team he would not be leading them anymore.

Back to Sammy. I’m wondering whether the selectors had to announce the limited overs team just before the India vs West Indies Test match was going to be played at the St Lucia ground just recently named after Sammy. A certain level of cynicism is justified because cricket administrators have this knack of twisting the knife when and where it hurts the most.

Come to think of it, at least Sammy was informed — however brief the explanation was — of his removal. Other captains have been less fortunate. S Venkataraghavan learnt that he was sacked as the Indian captain through an announcement made on the flight which brought the Indian team home after their 1979 tour of England. All-rounder Yajurvindra Singh remembers going to his captain’s seat and offering his commiseration. Yajurvindra didn’t forget to remember that Venkataraghavan came to his room when he was ignored for the 1977-78 tour of Australia despite faring well in domestic cricket. “Venkat reminded me that I was a standby for the tour and players do get injured during a series,” Yajurvindra recalled. Of course, a player (Surinder Amarnath) did get injured, but Anshuman Gaekwad was sent instead.

Sunil Gavaskar too was not informed by the Board/selectors when he was replaced by Kapil Dev as captain after a disastrous tour of Pakistan in 1982-83.

In a column for the Sportsweek magazine (February 23, 1983), Gavaskar, who nevertheless expected to be axed as the captain, wrote: “What is disappointing is the utter lack of courtesy and finesse with which the removal has come. Right from the time I started playing cricket at the Test level to the present day, captains have been discarded as one would brush away some dust. Neither the Board secretary nor the chairman of the selection committee calls to inform the deposed leader that he is no longer wanted as the captain. Instead, he has to learn about it from outside sources. What’s the harm in one telephone call to the deposed captain?”

Fifteen years later, things had still not changed in Indian cricket and Sachin Tendulkar had to learn about the termination of his captaincy in 1998 through a reporter.

Take heart, Darren Sammy. Others too have known your pain.

mid-day’s group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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