Marlon Samuels : The second comingGaneshbabu Venkat |
If batting were a miss world contest Marlon Samuels’s batting would certainly stake claim to that title. He belongs to a breed of West Indian batsmen who can play every stroke in the book and that too elegantly, not for nothing is he nick-named “Elegance” amongst the locals and his fans. It was a rough initiation for him when he made his international debut at just 19 years of age, with very little first-class experience; The young Jamaican was commissioned to go to Australia mid-tour as a replacement for the injured Shivnarine Chanderpaul during 2000-01. He grabbed the opportunity and impressed everyone who saw him bat down under. His cool head under pressure, smooth stroke play and solid technique caught the eye. However it proved to be a flash in the pan and he was plagued by inconsistent returns when South Africa visited the West Indies later that year. Although he was inconsistent there was no doubt about his talent which was clearly evident during that brief period of time.
The Indian tour of 2002 looked to be a coming-of-age for him as he scored a sublime 104 – his first Test and first-class hundred, against the Indian attack in his only innings of the Test series. In the ODI series, Samuels brought up his maiden ODI ton off just 72 balls in the final match which helped West Indies clinch the ODI series 4-3. The 108 ranks among one of the best ODI innings of that time, it was both sublime and brutal. He combined his silken stroke play with some audacious hits and left the Indians flabbergasted. However trouble followed him during that tour when he was almost sent home by the then selector Sir Viv Richards and only after Rev Wes Hall’s intervention did he stay on to play those two knocks.
This performance in India earned him a spot in the 2003 world cup squad and it was unfortunate that he did not get to play a game during the early stages of the tournament. His inconsistency came back to haunt him during the subsequent Australian tour in 2003. He was in the wilderness for two more years and made a comeback during the 2005 tour to Australia. Although he recorded first-class career bests with bat and ball – 257 and 5/87 – on that tour, he failed to make an impact in the Test matches. However he was still proving to be a more than useful all-rounder in ODI’s and his part-time off spin darts were more than handy in ODI’s. This – combined with his batting and athletic fielding – ensured he was in constant consideration for the West Indies team during that time.
The year 2006 proved to be crucial in many aspects for Samuels, He was finally finding some consistency with the bat and played match winning knocks in India and Pakistan. However he was drawn in to a major controversy during the India-West Indies ODI series in 2006-07 when the Nagpur police alleged that he passed on match-related information to an alleged bookie ahead of an ODI against India. Despite that bomb-shell he was included in the 2007 World cup squad and played a crucial innings against Pakistan, however he was remembered as the villain who ended the great Brian Lara’s illustrious international career when he ran Lara out during his last international innings.
His troubles nevertheless followed him and the investigations continued for the alleged match-fixing. During this tumultuous time he played a sublime knock of 94 in South Africa that helped West Indies win their first ever Test match in South Africa. The Sri Lanka series followed where he also contributed to some good results for the West Indies. However he was found guilty of “receiving money, or benefit or other reward that could bring him or the game of cricket into disrepute.” Samuels was subsequently banned for two years, at a time when West Indies desperately needed solidity in their middle-order and Samuels was beginning to offer that solidity. In an interview with CW last year he said that the two year ban was a tough and difficult time for him and it taught him to be mentally stronger. “When things go well you take everything for granted. But when you undergo tough times, you realize the importance of little things in life. I have become more religious. I am not someone who would pray a lot of times but before I start a day, I just say a quick thank you to God. Cricket means much more to me now.”
True to those words he made a comeback to the Test and the ODI teams in 2011, Samuels played a solid and matured, if not flamboyant knock of 78 not out at Kensington Oval in the 2nd Test against India. It may not have been a spectacular knock but it was an effective effort as Samuels waged a lone hand to save West Indies from an all too familiar batting collapse. However during the tour of England in 2012 he finally showed his caliber, against the number one ranked side, in alien conditions he scored 386 runs in five innings with a 100 and three fifties. He was consistent throughout the tour and showed what he was capable of.
He then followed that up with some scintillating knocks against the Kiwis both in Tests and ODI’s. He was slowly but surely becoming a cog in the West Indian wheel. The watershed moment came later during 2012 when he scored a spectacular 78 in the world T20 final against Sri Lanka, which helped West Indies win a first world title since 1979. He tore Lasith Malinga to pieces and brought West Indies from the brink to win the World Cup. There was more success when he scored his career best against Bangladesh in Tests. That 260 helped West Indies win the series 2-0. However he was not able to replicate that form in the ODI’s and the WI promptly lost that series. He compensated the ODI loss with a scorching T20 knock to salvage some pride for the WI. By this time He had given up the red rag for the yellow scarf and coming from the land of Redemption he has redeemed himself pretty well during his second coming, one can only hope that there is more to come from this elegant stroke-maker.
P.S: At this time the article is live he is injured with an eye socket fracture playing for the Melbourne Renegades and CW wishes him well for a speedy recovery.