KEEPING LORD'S WORLD CLASS
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In an exclusive interview on the eve of the England v West Indies Test, Darren Sammy tells Lords.org how his time as a MCC Young Cricketer shaped his career.
Darren Sammy cuts a very different figure to the last West Indies captain to tour England. Back in 2009, a disgruntled Chris Gayle declared his distaste for Test cricket in an interview with The Guardian, before his side capitulated to an innings defeat at the Home of Cricket.
Sammy might not possess the same raw talent as his predecessor - who will return to international action for the ODI series later this summer - but the man from the Windward Islands has conversely been in his element ahead of this Lord's Test.
"Being captain was never something I dreamt of," Sammy admits.
"But I relish the opportunity to captain the West Indies. It’s a team which has a long history and a great legacy so being a part of it and stepping out on Thursday leading the West Indies at Lord’s is going to be a very memorable experience."
While he will be occupying the away dressing room this week, Sammy knows Lord's as well as any player on either side, having spent two years as an MCC Young Cricketer when a teenager.
After impressing at the Youth World Cup in 2002, Sammy was recommended to the staff by former MCC Head of Cricket Tony Dodemaide, as part of MCC's policy of inviting overseas cricketers to join the YC scheme. Three ex-YCs are currently international captains - Sammy, New Zealand's Ross Taylor and Ireland's Will Porterfield.
"Coming here turned around my career," Sammy, now 29, adds, looking out over the ground from the top floor Members' Bar in the Pavilion.
"It gave me the boost I needed. Every cricketer's dream is to be here and I was exposed to this wonderful facility every day.
"I came here in 2003, took everything on board which I experienced and by 2004 I was in the West Indies team."
Sammy made his debut against England in 2004, playing in the ODI side while still part of the staff, and was a reserve for the Test series when it arrived at Lord's.
However, former MCC Head Coach Clive Radley wasn't about to let it go to his head, as Sammy recalls:
"Normally the YCs help out the groundstaff during a major match but when the Test was played at Lord’s, I was a reserve for the Test squad and a member of the ODI squad.
"That didn’t matter though and Clive told me I was doing the covers. Then when it rained, they were all looking for me when the camera went onto the balcony and there I was talking to Brian Lara!"
Covers are something which the West Indies have seen plenty of since they arrived in England, with their 10-wicket defeat to England Lions the only serious match action of the trip.
Sammy himself is yet to bowl a ball in a match on the trip, after sitting out the Lions game, while injury worries concerning fellow seamers Kemar Roach and Ravi Rampul have dogged the build-up to the opening Test.
Combine that with an inexperienced batting line-up, the West Indies are, on paper, a team heading for a difficult series against the world's number one ranked Test side.
Lord's though, is somewhere Sammy believes will inspire the tourists to raise their game.
He said: "Our guys were talking about Lord’s since we were back in the Caribbean and just the thought of getting your name on the Honours Boards is motivation enough for all the guys.
"We have discussions and all the bowlers say they’re going to be the next and so do the batsmen!
"Leading the West Indies at Lord’s is going to be a very memorable experience.
"I’ve already got good memories of Lord’s and I’m expecting to have even better memories after this Test."