West Indies T20 star, Daren Sammy: “I always use three things, imagine, believe, achieve”

In this week’s exclusive we spent some time getting to know former West Indies skipper and T20 icon, Daren Sammy, about his illustrious cricket career and how he pins it all on his faith.

Let’s kick off with where you are at right now, you’re playing a whole host of T20 cricket around the globe, but which competition is your favourite to play in?

My favourite is the Caribbean Premier League, playing in front of your fans, makes it simply my favourite, especially playing in St Lucia at the newly named Daren Sammy Cricket Ground. There is a special feeling when you walk out there, to play in front of those people. There’s no place like home. It’s like Gareth Bale playing in Cardiff for the Champions League Final. When you’ve worked hard for your country and then you come back home, it just brings a different type of feeling and appreciation for the fans. I do enjoy all of the tournaments that I play in, the fans from Pakistan love me and the IPL is to me the biggest, the most lucrative.

There a lot of modern pros now, who journey around the T20 leagues, what’s it like with all the new places, new franchises, hopping on planes, hotel rooms. Is it luxurious or does it get tiring?

Just the other day a couple of us were talking about this, people think that it’s luxurious and it is, you travel, you’re on a plane every day and you get seen on TV but it can get lonely, living out of a suitcase away from your family.

It’s not all luxurious, my kids are at home, my family and my son is writing me about his exams, and I’m not there. It’s an important time of his life and I am not there. I am just making a living for the family, but I explain to them, do you want the nice things? and they say yes, so I then say well daddy has to go on a plane to get them. It does have its ups and downs but it’s the sacrifice that we must make to make sure that our family is secure for the future. It’s getting harder and harder to leave home.

How are you enjoying the punditry, is it strange being on the other side of the camera?

I’m really enjoying it, especially here in Dubai with Michael Vaughan, it’s been good. I am still playing, so from a playing point of view it’s always good to hear from him as a captain about different scenarios and it’s all an experience.

Who is the best player that you’ve ever played against?

Man, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, I played a couple of limited matches against Brian Lara and I got him out, I got him out back in 2002. Kallis, Ponting, Tendulkar and now even Virat Kohli and AB De Villiers, we have some great players around.

Let’s chat about West Indies, there never seems to be a dull moment in West Indies cricket and you’ve gone through a lot of change with them. How much have you enjoyed representing your country over the years?

The actual playing, on field, I have really enjoyed it. As a little boy growing up in the community, watching Ambrose, Lara, a little bit of Sir Viv. That is what I wanted to do and to get an opportunity to play with them, for them has been an amazing experience. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am the first St Lucian to actually represent the West Indies but I remember back then, a few of us said that If we make it, we could play with Ambrose and even Lara, who is everybody’s idol. I played with Lara in 2004, he was my captain, we ended up winning the Champions Trophy and yes it’s been an amazing experience. The West Indies will always be the first team in my heart, that’s what made me who I am, and I would not take anything away from that. It has a great history and so I am very proud that I ended up playing for them.

I still have aspirations of playing.

You’re a two-time World T20 winner with the West Indies, I bet that’s nailed at the top of your CV but where does that rank in your all-time achievements?

It’s up there, especially the first one we won, I was under a lot of pressure about whether I should be captain and whether I should be playing. I just had my faith and it remained strong in my belief in myself. We won a World Cup and then to win that game last year has got to be up there, from a personal point of view my test debut against England, taking seven wickets for sixty-six. That is a high point and also scoring a hundred against England.

Just the fact that I was able to be on that cricket field, every time I stepped out it was like a massive achievement, wearing the maroon colours. It is something I will always cherish. I think it is thanks to the man above, through him we were able to help our talented cricketers. How can you hit four sixes off the last over in the World Cup final to win? It must be divine intervention and Carlos was the man to do it on that day. I am thankful to him and the most high. It seemed like we were destined to win, I know God played a hand in that victory.

Daren it would be great to hear about talk about your personal faith, what’s your story of how you came to know God for yourself?

When you grow up in the Caribbean, if your mum doesn’t take you to church, your grandmother will, so you grow up in a Christian environment. For me, I grew up in the church, we worshipped on Saturdays and I always give full credit to my parents in interviews for raising me in the way that they did. The bible says to train up a child in the way that they should go so I was raised in the Christian church and I am thankful to God, that’s where my connection with Jesus Christ happened.

As a young boy I used to preach in the church, my mum was very keen on me becoming a pastor, I used to preach in the communities and my relationship with God never stopped from there. I must admit, It’s not where it should be, but it’s something that I know, he is always present and never turns his back on us. Sometimes we take him for granted but I really need to get closer to him.

So your retirement plans are all sorted then, time to lead a church?

It’s a funny story because my mum didn’t want me to play cricket because in the church I went to the sabbath is the Saturday. You can’t play cricket on the Saturday, I was picked for the national team without even going to trials, but because of my faith my mum wouldn’t let me go. Most of the games were over the weekend and I missed out on playing for St Lucia back in 1997, so I used to leave home on the Friday night, and my mum would just hear my name on the radio, over the weekend.

After a while, my coaches came home because I used to dominate the school level, and there was no stopping me because I was very stubborn with my cricket. I would play all day, every day. They used to call me the ‘Father of Cricket’ in the school, so it turned out well. I always tease my mum about her not wanting her son to play cricket but I said to her that God says to use your talents, and if he has given me the talent there’s no way that he doesn’t want me to use it. I tell her, you know what, I will have a great testimony after playing cricket, to let the world know how God has blessed me and how we can use what we do to give him the praise and the glory. Without God I would be done with cricket by now.

Have there been moments in your cricket career, that have tested your faith?

When I was given captaincy of the West Indies team, I wasn’t a regular player in the eleven, especially in test cricket before that. All of the pressure that came with it, it really tested my faith. Even winning the world cup, there was a game against New Zealand where we were only defending 130 and they were going guns blazing, I am walking back to my mark, with my eyes closed and I was just saying a prayer, saying Lord this is not the way I saw us leaving the tournament. Right after that we pulled it back and we won in the super over. We went on to win the World Cup and I gave him the praise and glory.

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People might say, Daren you have success, achievements, money, a comfortable life. Why do you need God? What would you say to that?

God is in everything, he controls everything! God is the one who allows you to have that piece of mind, so many people have success but are not happy. Knowing and having a relationship with God allows you to be that way, you become successful and you want to do good, to give back to the community. It’s like a conscience in your head, to help your neighbour. God gives you that sense of satisfaction and when things get tough it’s the presence of God that allows you to stick with it, the bible says that he won’t give us loads we can’t bear. You reason with him, it’s always good to have a relationship with God.

I am talking to you right now, knowing that my relationship with him is not where it should be right now, but through his mercies I am able to wake up every morning and have a life. To me, without him we are nothing, all the riches of this world, mean nothing.

So with that in mind. . .why do you think God has given you such a big sporting platform?

Because that is his will for me, growing up we had nothing, I have become a role model to people in the Caribbean. Just by the way I conduct myself, I want to be an example to others. The story, from where I have come from to where I am right now it is an example that God works wonders. He definitely had that plan for me.

How would you like people to remember you when you retire from Cricket?

I guess as a gentleman of the game, someone who played with a smile on his face and never gave up. Obviously, my numbers are not that of the greats like Lara and Tendulkar, it will never be that. However, there is one thing you will hear about Daren, wow, what a pleasant gentleman. A guy always smiling who seems happy no matter what the situation. He stood up for what is right, even when it was tough, especially after the World Cup when we won, standing up for his men and his players. I know I will be respected for that.

Has the way you are, meant that you’ve had good conversations with people about Jesus?

Yes because I always mention him, I always give him praise. When we have conversations, I let people know. I find people wanting to talk to me about how I manage all of these big players in the dressing room, the first thing I try and do is try and understand the players that are around me and they know that I am close to God. The way I conduct myself should be a reflection of the belief that I have in him.

What’s one piece of advice that you would give to young cricketers out there who want to be the next Daren Sammy?

When I go out and speak to the kids, I always use three things, imagine, believe, achieve. Imagine what you want to do in your mind, believe in your heart that it could happen, and then you will achieve it. Once you have that drive and passion, do all that you can to achieve it. God has a plan for all of us, if it’s his will, it will happen. Honestly, I sit back sometimes and reflect on my career and I just laugh, I have a weird back-lift, there is nothing special about me, but yet I have played twelve years of international cricket. I have captained in the IPL, in the South African Ram Slam, in the PSL, in Hong Kong and in the Caribbean Premier League. I just think, that’s God alone there.

Let’s end with some quickfires, just answer with the first thing that comes into your head:

Q: Favourite ground                                                   A: Daren Sammy Cricket Ground

Q: Favourite city                                                           A: London

Q: Favourite football team                                       A: Arsenal, Gunners for life buddy

Q: Favourite player to watch                                   A: Chris Gayle and Virat Kohli

Q: Favourite TV show                                                  A: Scandal and The Voice

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