Darren Sammy remembers something that happened eight years before he was born.
“You don’t forget Clive Lloyd scoring 100 in the World Cup final or Viv Richards’ three run-outs which helped us win,” he told ESPNcricinfo, talking about the inaugural World Cup final in 1975. Watching videos has left the contest imprinted on his memory, so much so that he feels as though he saw it first-hand.
“There’s something about a World Cup. It’s the mecca,” Sammy said. “The event is so prestigious and as a player, you know the world is watching and there is real motivation for you to perform on a world stage. That’s what people remember.”
In an age where teams can play dozens of ODIs a year in multiple series, the magic and meaning of results can be lost, which is what Sammy thinks makes the World Cup more important than anything else. It creates the chance to make an impression where it matters most and he thrives on that.
“I love it. It can be too much for some players to be in a pressure situation but I love it,” Sammy said. “Even today, when people talk to me, they mention things like my innings against Australia at the World T20.”
In 2012, when West Indies won the tournament in Sri Lanka, they eliminated Australia thanks to a powerful batting showing. Sammy was not needed in the line-up on that day but cherishes the performance as one of his best. Two years later, West Indies ejected Australia from the tournament again when they pulled off their best chase and on that occasions, Sammy was central to proceedings. He hammered 34 off 13 balls to haul his team over the line and it is little wonder that innings still gets mentioned.
But that was in the shortest format, which has suited West Indies best in recent years and led to expectation that they will do well. In longer versions they continue to struggle, which is why Sammy is desperate for them to make an impression at the World Cup.
“For us to do well will be massive for us,” he said. “I always tell the guys about that in the changeroom, even though I am not the captain anymore, I still tell them that the world needs a West Indies cricket team that is winning matches and competing.”
Sammy was replaced in the leadership role in May this year with Dwayne Bravo taking over at ODI level and Denesh Ramdin in Tests. That also prompted Sammy’s retirement from the longest format, a decision over which he has no regrets.
“I’m done with Tests. I am thankful for every day I had but when I retired, I knew it was time for somebody else to take over,” he said. “Cricket is not about Darren Sammy. I knew the board and the players wanted to move forward and my focus is now on playing ODIs and T20s.”
Particularly ODIs, where Sammy’s focus is on the World Cup. He signed on with Titans for South Africa’s domestic Twenty20 competition to allow him to prepare on pacy pitches ahead of the big event.
Sammy has since also been installed as the franchise captain, a role he still enjoys. Sammy’s approach is to bring individuals together, because that is the only way he can see collective success, a mentality to feels is especially relevant for West Indies.
“With the calibre of players we’ve got and the impact players we’ve got, we can win the World Cup but it will take a real team effort to be able to do it. It’s all about the team and what we can do as a team,” he said. “That’s how it always is in cricket, not about the individuals but the team and for us, that will be very important. We really want to do well so we have to do it together.”
The last time West Indies lifted the cup was the year Sammy was born which means he does not have a recollection of that, either, which is further incentive to create his own memories. “We’ve not won the World Cup since 1983 so if we can do it, it will just be massive.”