There is a special place in my heart for Darren Sammy.
It's the same place that occupies a soft spot for Tim Bresnan. Sure, he may not be the most tactically aware captain of all time. And yes, his side do have a knack of letting a strong position slip through their grasp. And OK, he's dropped the same amount of slip catches as Shane Watson has made his way to fifty and then run someone out/slapped it to cover/edged it behind. But there's something about Sammy that is endlessly appealing.
Maybe it's the way he's gone after Watson in this series. When Watson comes on to bowl, Sammy loves to take a big heave at him. Sometimes it misses. Sometimes it connects, flies for a six and leaves Watson smoothing back his hair and giving Sammy the eye. And what does Sammy do? He gives him the eye right back. They exchange words; Watson will swear, gesticulate, puff himself up. Sammy will say nothing. Just stare Watson out. And then pull the next one for a boundary.
Sammy's batting is, at times, erratic, misjudged and generally sends him back into the hutch before he's pulled his team out of whatever situation they've landed themselves in. But he's from the breed of middle order biffers - Sammy will hit out, and sometimes it will be glorious. Playing cautiously suits Shiv Chanderpaul; he's made playing awkwardly and patiently work for him. This will never work for Sammy. He bats the way he tweets - a touch insane with a few mis-judgments and a few gems here and there. As a bowler, he is tight, very rarely giving much away in terms of width. His bouncer to Watson, which Watson attempted to pull in a shot that Haddin would have been proud of, came after a series of medium pacers that Watson fended off without any difficulty. That's clever bowling.
Sammy is good for West Indies cricket. He has a young team, but it's a young team that's progressing. They've had Australia looking down the barrel several times in this series already. It is frustrating to not watch them capitalise on this; watching them throw away the pressure they built in the second test through a sub-par batting performance was infuriating. Yet slowly but surely, this team is growing. Their spin attack is working the current Roseau pitch to its full potential. Sammy can be defensive, but he can also be attacking. Clarke's declaration in the second test put the West Indies under pressure, given how brittle their batting line up can be. So Sammy took the attack to Clarke's men by batting aggressively and preventing a possible collapse. Sammy has the support of Ottis Gibson, a man who knows how to develop a bowling attack.
West Indies cricket has been a source of mockery for some in the past. But it is quietly starting to rebuild itself. The vulnerabilities are still there; the loss of pressure, the boom or bust batting line up. But they've stood up to the Australian attack. They've removed the Australian big guns, with the exception of Mr Cricket, time after time. Sammy is cultivating a team to be proud of.
Maybe that's why I have such a soft spot for Sammy. The warmth he creates on the pitch, the smile when a bowler makes the breakthrough, the easy nature with which he interacts with players and press. Sammy is a normal guy, but he's no idiot. He knows how to manage a team. His warmth was just what the West Indies needed to rejuvenate themselves - their visit to England next month will be their next big test.