It’s April 21, 2007, at Bridgetown, Barbados. The West Indies are batting first, and around the 30th over, the ‘Prince’ Brian Lara walks in to bat for one last time. Stuart Broad comes steaming in, and the batsman in front plays one with a slight shuffle toward the on-side. He hurriedly calls for a single and then suddenly scampers back to the crease. At the opposite end, Kevin Pietersen has dislodged the non-striker’s stumps.
It’s too late, and Lara has to walk back. Entire ground is on its feet. These are sombre scenes. Fast forward to January 6, 2013. In a slightly exaggerated vocal fight between a regular Melbourne Renegades and Melbourne Stars game, a familiar West Indies bloke, chewing gum nonchalantly is doused in anger. He hurls the bat and at the receiving end is none other than Shane Warne, who ducks under cover. There is commotion everywhere. Later, in the game, Warne unleashes not the most pleasant verbals to the right-hander.
We move onto St. George’s, Grenada. It’s April 2015. As Denesh Ramdin catches Ben Stokes off Bishoo, distraught at being dismissed playing a false stroke, he’s not let off without a send-off. His opponent unfurls a salute. It is harsh. It is sarcastic. The duo makes news. Not the best of it.
Finally, we arrive at Kolkata, the city of joy. The West Indies have hammered England. In the aftermath of their very calypso, joyous celebrations, the same West Indian places his feet on the top of the table while addressing the media. This is sort of insane. Not to mention, ridiculous. It’s the kind of stuff you see in movies that make no sense wherein an old master horsewhips his servant into submission. The bloke murmurs with great audacity, “Ben Stokes has got a large mouth and lacks manners.”
You wonder just what is going on.
The truth is, on each of these occasions, the culprit in the picture is Marlon Samuels. Just what do you make of this guy? The fact is, to understand Marlon Samuels, a one-directional narrative may never be enough. From the outset, he is very much a controversial character. There’s no denying it. But to ascertain his impact on the sport you’ve to delve into some detail. In each of the above controversial situations where Samuels generated not the most pleasant portrayal in media, his impact on Cricket was phenomenal.
The game featuring Lara’s infamous run-out had Samuels contributing 51 off just 39. In those days, it was nothing less than an exceptional quick-fire inning. In the game where he gave a sendoff to Ben Stokes, Samuels had contributed 103, staying on for 296 minutes. When he behaved in a fashion probably worse than the unprofessional behaviour exhibited by a school grade cricketer at Kolkata, Samuels’s bat had blazed 85 off just 66, a knock laced with 9 boundaries.
For a cricketer who often appears somewhat somnolent and withdrawn, seemingly involved in his own shenanigans, Marlon Samuels has rendered some useful contributions to the West Indies over the years.
Lest it be forgotten that in a template that is considered a shadow of the current reflection of the West Indies- T20s- it’s been Samuels and his elegant hitting, not mighty hitters- Gayle, Pollard or Russell- that have taken Windies home on two separate occasions in a World T20 final stage. Remember Colombo, October 7, 2012?
It was a Marlon Samuels night, wherein spurred by 6 massive sixes; the West Indies rushed home to an unlikely victory when the biggies had exited without adding anything substantial to the scorecards. In a small gathering of 136, Samuels’s contribution was 76.
Then when the West Indies became the darlings of the world media, in their famous second stint, even though short-lived that it might’ve been, it was Samuels who steadied the collapsing ship. The laurels, however, went to Carlos Brathwaite.
You heard Ian Bishop exult with great innocence, “Remember the name..”, but none recounted had Samuels not found the runs when they most mattered, the Windies might’ve collapsed like ninepins.
Whether that was fair to a foul-mouthed cricketer is anyone’s call.
But what is known about Samuels is this. The familiar feeling surrounding the Jamaican is one concerning his etiquette and flaws not so much the musings of his bat. You’ve anointed the image of a Universe Boss- probably much to creation of its carrier- to Chris Gayle. You regard Lara as the Prince. You have a soft corner for Darren Sammy, and you think the world of Shai Hope.
Why is then, Marlon Samuels- a man responsible for nearly 9500 international runs- restricted only to a bad-boy image? Surely, he’s endured one heck of a ride in international cricket. If being reported for an illegal bowling action weren’t enough to earn him the blemish, his association with bookies and charges of match-fixing hurt his career big. In missing two precious years of competitive cricket, Samuels, it could be said was left devoid of an opportunity to add to his Test and ODI scores.
But who’s to be blamed? Isn’t it the man who Ian Chappel recently described as a bloke “who’s more of a man-child, one who had gone down the wrong path being associated with gangly youth in Jamaica?” The other perspective surrounding Samuels is that he is unfulfilled potential. Not renowned as the fastest scorer of runs, nor the quickest runner between the wickets- there’s this Carl Hooper like feeling of incompleteness when you visit his Test and ODI records.
How come a man whose bat hurled a brilliant 260 in Tests in addition to clubbing 52 international fifties has struck only 17 international hundreds ever since debuting in 2001?
Where the focused and determined Samuels- who was tipped for greatness- lost the mark, considering upon completing 71 Tests and 192 ODIs, he’s managed not even 4000 Test and roughly 5300 ODI runs is a mystery that no Sherlock can solve. For someone whose craft boasts of a beaming cover drive and attractive, sturdy backfoot punches, a batting average of nearly 33 in either format speaks of an utter failure to convert intent into runs.
Samuels’ is a case of an inability to live up to one’s full potential. It’s not about the lack of potential. In case you thought this is mere conjecture, here’s proof. Samuels’s initial years in Test Cricket yielded runs at an average of 48, 80 and 38. In the past 4 years, the most he’s scored at have come at an average of 30. This was in 2014.
Though one must credit Samuels to have made himself available for national selection- circa 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015- where much of the big names had begun plucking a dollar one too many around the world contesting in T20 duties. By then, it could be said; the fizz wasn’t there in Samuels’ craft. His repeated failures to lead by example against Kohli’s India, 2016 and versus Pakistan, 2015 spoke of lacklustre form.
Why didn’t he consult a Viv or Sobers, in a bid to revive his appetite for scoring, quite like how Lara had rushed to Sir Sobers (circa 2001-02 before Sri Lanka tour), one will never know? Even as he turns 37, but immensely fit and lithe, it still seems there are a couple of cricketing seasons left in those burly shoulders. You instantly sense a keenness to contribute as you find quite like his dear friend, Gayle, Samuels has made himself available for his team’s world cup qualifiers in March. But will he make it count? Only bat of Marlon Samuels can reveal.