Exiled in 2008 by the ICC for his involvement in bringing the game into disrepute, Marlon Samuels was written off by many. But he’s back and he’s looking bloody brilliant, says ANT SIMS.
In 2008, Marlon Samuels was disgraced. He was given a two-year suspension from cricket after being found guilty of breaking the rules which stop players from betting on matches. The West Indies Cricket Board said Samuels had “received money, benefit or other reward which could bring him or the game into disrepute”.
He denied all allegations, but the ICC insisted that their thorough investigation warranted the suspension. According to the man himself, he got to spend two years on the beach and with his family. But now he’s back and, boy, do the West Indies need him.
Since Samuels' return from exile, he has averaged 45.37 in 20 Tests, he's notched up some impressive scores, including 78*, 84 and 61 vs India, and 86, 117 and 76* vs England. He put in an equally good performance in the Indian Premier League, scoring 124 in eight matches for his Pune Warriors franchise, but it’s his performances for the West Indies that have really stood out.
After a two-year absence, Samuels made his return against Pakistan in May 2011. He was the standout performer, scoring 57 off 145 in the first innings as his teammates folded around him like deck chairs. He did it again just a few games later, notching up an unbeaten 78 off 172 as his team crumbled to 190 all out against India in June of 2011.
Fast forward almost a year to the Test series happening in England and it's been the Samuels show all over again. As his teammates switched off their cricketing brains, Samuels got stuck in and scored runs. Buckets of them.
Since he arrived in England, including tour matches, he’s scored 32, 44, 31, 86, 117 and 76*. Samuels has proved he’s not of the same ilk as his flopping teammates. With all the odds stacked severely against him, he’s given a middle-finger salute to his critics and he’s stamped his authority on a team fighting against an inept board and against players whose own worst enemy seems to be their fear of winning.
If Shivnarine Chanderpaul is constantly lauded for his role in the side, Samuels has often played second fiddle, but the Jamaican is forcing everyone to sit up and take notice.
In a team desperate for a bit of the swagger of old, Samuels is becoming a vital cog in a wheel which is far too often derailed. Whether he is telling James Anderson that he’ll make it 200 if he’s not careful or warning the England slip cordon that he’s determined to get another 100, the right-hander is backing up his chatter by letting his bat do the real talking. He already averages over 100 on his tour of England and he has one more Test to add to his tally of meaty runs.
At 31 years old, Samuels is in the prime of his career and his second coming will be the period which defines him. He has a chance to become an example to others, to wipe his slate clean and cover it with the vibrant colours of an illustrious career. Samuels has the chance to become a real hero, a legend in his own right, in a very short period of time.
If the West Indies Cricket Board had any sense, which they don’t – so this is purely hypothetical – they would hand the captaincy to Samuels. Darren Sammy has done what he can with limited resources, and he’s a wonderfully pleasant gentleman, but his ability as a captain, at least from a strategic point of view, has been somewhat baffling.
Samuels is older, experienced and somebody who has taken turmoil, defied it and turned it into success, something which the West Indies could really do with right now. DM
Photo: West Indies' Marlon Samuels celebrates reaching his century during the second test cricket match against England at Trent Bridge cricket ground in Nottingham May 25, 2012. REUTERS/Philip Brown.