West Indies allrounder Darren Sammy has been handed the Titans captaincy for the remainder of the South African domestic 20-over competition with the franchise yet to decide who will take over in other formats.
Sammy replaces Henry Davids, who has been asked to concentrate solely on his batting as the Titans attempt to overturn a poor start to the tournament which has seen them slump to three straight defeats.
“This is a tactical decision to see how we can turn things around,” Jacques Faul, CEO of the Titans franchise told ESPNcricinfo. “He is a World T20 winning captain. If you have someone like that at your disposal, you should use them.”
Sammy is one of five West Indies players and one of six internationals who have been signed on for the duration of the Ram Slam but the only one who has been given the additional responsibility of leading a team. Ironically, he is the only one who has yet to deliver a stand-out performance for his side.
Chris Gayle scored the competition’s first century and also has two fifties to his name for the Lions; Craig Kieswetter is the Warriors’ top-scorer; Kieron Pollard’s 72 off 36 balls helped the Cobras to victory over the Titans; Andre Russell scored 48 off 21 balls and took 1 for 20 when the Knights beat the Titans and Dwayne Bravo’s 43 off 25 balls took the Dolphins to a match-winning total over the Warriors.
But Sammy is Titans’ leading wicket-taker with five scalps at 14.60 and Faul believes what he offers behind the scenes will be vital. “We are more than happy with what Darren has brought to the team. He has been inspirational and the guys really respect him,” Faul said. “We want to see what someone else can do to get back to winning ways.”
The Titans are traditionally one of South Africa’s stronger teams but have had a difficult start to the season, particularly in limited-overs cricket. They lie fourth on the one-day cup table and fifth on the 20-over standings having suffered from a squad depleted by national call-ups.
Currently, both their leading paceman Marchant de Lange and key batsman Farhaan Behardien are in Australia with the South African ODI squad. They were also without David Wiese, who travelled for the T20s and Albie Morkel, who was injured pre-season and is not expected to be back before January after first targeting a December comeback.
The player drain has had an impact on both areas of the Titans’ game, with bowlers struggling to contain line-ups and batsmen unable to chase tall targets. The former may be boosted by the return of Wiese but the latter is why Davids, who has played two ODIs and nine T20s for South Africa, has been asked to focus on runs, rather than leading the side
This is the second time this season that a performance-related demand has cost Davids the captaincy. He was left out of the opening game of the season, despite being announced as the franchise captain over the winter, because of a lean run in the 2013-14 first-class campaign in which he averaged less than 20. Behardien captained the Titans in that match, which they lost by 190 runs. That prompted a change in personnel and Davids was brought back for the next game. He scored 22 and 43 and the Titans beat the Warriors by 170 runs.
Davids has led the side since then but there is uncertainty over whether he will continue to do so in future. Sammy will take charge for the rest of the Ram Slam, in a bid to get the Titans to qualify for the final and the Champions League T20.
In mid-December, when the first-class competition resumes, the Titans will make another decision about whether to return to Davids or seek someone else. Behardien could be the front-runner, having already done the job this season, or they could look to the experience of Roelof van der Merwe.