Samuels ponders Kolpak deal after omission from West Indies ODIs
Marlon Samuels has called on the WICB to "compromise" in their selection policy after he was omitted from West Indies' ODI squad, and suggested he could accept a Kolpak deal in county cricket if an agreement cannot be reached.
Samuels, twice man of the match in World T20 finals, was left out of West Indies' 15-man squad after electing to miss games in the Super 50 competition - the Caribbean regional List A tournament - in order to play in the more lucrative Pakistan Super League. Current WICB policy is that no player will be considered for the international team unless they have made themselves available for the entire regional competition in that format.
But Samuels, who claims he was offered double the value of his previous West Indies retainer contract (worth $135,000) to appear in the BPL, argues that the WICB could learn from the example of the boards of New Zealand and England, who allow their players to appear in overseas T20 leagues without it rendering them ineligible for international cricket. Late last year, Samuels was one of the three players - along with Darren Bravo and Carlos Brathwaite - to decline the WICB retainer. It is understood that Samuels was offered a Grade C contract worth $115,000, demoting him from the previous Grade B.
"Why can't I play some games in the PSL and come back and play against England?" Samuels asked in an interview with SportMax Zone, a Jamaica-based television network. "I'm not 20. You're still telling me to miss out on everything. Why can't you compromise?
"The rule they have doesn't make any sense. You have to compromise. Eoin Morgan, the England captain, is playing in the PSL and then he goes to the Caribbean. Why can't I do the same? Why play hard ball in everything?"
While there is some logic in the WICB stance - they insist that, to retain the strength of their regional competitions, their best players must participate - the reality of the policy has been to deny them many of their best players. Players such as Samuels, who is aged 36, and aware of the diminishing opportunities he may have to earn for his retirement, can earn far more on the T20 circuit than the WICB can afford to pay in retainers. Sunil Narine, ranked third in the ICC's ODI bowling rankings, is another who has been deemed ineligible.
The ECB, by contrast, has actively encouraged some players to take part in the IPL during the county season - they have even allowed the likes of Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes to skip two ODIs against Ireland - reasoning that the benefits of the experience will outweigh the negatives of the dilution of their own domestic product. There might also be an acceptance that the value of central contracts cannot keep pace with the escalation in T20 fees and that, as a result, compromise is required.
While Dave Cameron, the president of the WICB, recently stated the board's selection policy could be reviewed, the selection of the ODI squad to play England suggests there has been no change in the short term.
Samuels has not played for West Indies since the Pakistan tour in the UAE last year, and was dropped for the tri-series in Zimbabwe. He was especially surprised at his omission from the three-match ODI series against England given WICB's recent investment in him when the board paid for his travel to England for his bowling action to be tested. That trip proved fruitful as the ICC cleared Samuels to bowl in international cricket once again.
"I didn't pay for my bowling. ICC didn't pay for my bowling .The West Indies Cricket Board paid for my bowling. So they invested in my bowling for me to come back to bowl against England. Now I'm going to hear that I've to stay and play all the Super50 games."
Incidentally, Samuels ended up playing just one match for Leewards Islands in the Super50 before he left to play in the PSL.
Samuels also revealed that he has been offered a three-year Kolpak deal by Derbyshire worth up to £130,000 a season, fuelling concerns that West Indies could be hit by a spate of international retirements of the sort that recently shocked South African cricket. While it is understood he has indicated a reluctance to accept the deal - he would prefer a deal as an overseas player in county cricket, thereby sustaining his hopes of playing international cricket - he has suggested it remains on the table.
Samuels asserted that, for him, it is loyalty to West Indies that comes first, which was evident in his 17 years' service in Caribbean cricket. "I've got a Kolpak deal on my plate which I'm contemplating," he said. "It's a three-year deal with Derbyshire. Worth probably £120,000-130,000 a year. The money is not the issue at the moment, I've been playing international cricket the last 17 years so have set myself the right way. This is about principle, about being loyal. I've been a loyal soldier for West Indies cricket and continue to play. I showed some loyalty, so I expect a bit of loyalty. I'm only the one from 2000 still here, sticking round and playing for the West Indies."
Samuels said he was in "no rush" to sign the Derbyshire deal as, after the PSL, he would travel to play another league in Hong Kong and had a "few other deals" in the bag.
Samuels is unlikely to be the only Caribbean player attracting interest from England's first-class counties. Darren Bravo, whose relationship with WICB would appear to be in tatters following a public falling-out with Cameron, is one who is certain to be snapped up if he decides to go that route, while fellow Trinidadian Denesh Ramdin is also understood to be of interest.
Ravi Rampaul, the second highest wicket-taker in this year's Super 50, is already on a Kolpak deal with Surrey, while former West Indies captain Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who was second in the batting averages, has recently signed a similar deal with Lancashire. Fidel Edwards is also signed to Hampshire as a Kolpak, Other players such as Jofra Archer, Keith Barker and Chris Jordan have also chosen to pursue their careers in England when they could have been eligible for West Indies.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo.