India v WI, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval

Samuels comfortable with senior status

Matured and focused, Marlon Samuels recognises his responsibility and can now play the anchor role in his cricket and his life

Nagraj Gollapudi

June 9, 2013

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A

Marlon Samuels flays to the off side, West Indies v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, Group B, The Oval, June 7, 2013
Marlon Samuels has great responsibility with the bat © Getty Images
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Marlon Samuels is still waiting for his copy of the Wisden Almanack. One of the five Cricketers of the Year, Samuels was chosen for the honour after his commanding performance during the three-Test series last May in England, where he was the top run scorer in the Wisden Trophy with one century and three fifties.

It was the one of the first times Samuels had handled the responsibility of being a senior batsman. It carried much meaning for him personally because finally he made the headlines for cricketing reasons, his two-year ICC ban forgotten. Even though West Indies lost the series 2-0, Samuels dominated the formidable England bowling attack with a combination of calmness and anger.

Twelve months down the line Samuels is back in England, his reputation enhanced after his heroics in the final of the World Twenty20 formed the backbone for West Indies' first world title in nearly two decades.

Yet Samuels curiously remains unconvincing in ODIs. Somehow, despite being one of the few Caribbean batsmen to possess the right combination of flair, patience and bravado, he seems to have betrayed his talent.

On the handful of occasions he has succeeded, it has coincided with West Indies victories: Samuels averages 49.54 in matches West Indies have won, with all his four centuries coming in team victories. In 2012 he scored 482 runs at 32.12 from 16 ODI innings, including two centuries; his overall career average is 30.84. But in the Champions Trophy, Samuels has failed - he has scored only 71 runs from eight innings. His performance in England in ODIs is also mediocre - an aggregate of 159 runs from six innings.

In West Indies' thrilling low-scoring victory against Pakistan, Samuels made his presence felt with a valuable third-wicket partnership with Chris Gayle, scoring 30. As crucial as his innings was, Samuels failed to bolt the door shut on Pakistan and exposed the middle and lower order to some anxious moments. In terms of matches, Samuels (143 ODIs) is the third-most experienced player in the team, behind Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, but has mostly failed to perform the role of the senior statesman.

Be that as it may, after his comeback from the ban, Samuels has said he now enters every ground purposefully. He even said he channels his anger at being denied international cricket for two years in a positive fashion.

"I am determined to score a bit quicker, rotate the strike as much as possible," Samuels said. "In Test cricket you spend a lot of time out there and wait for the bad balls. It is not so much of a difference batting between both formats." According to him, conditions in England have posed the biggest hurdle. "The ball moves around. The hardest part is to get a start in England. Once you get a start, things get easy."

 
 
As he sat by the picket fence at The Oval it was the same still nature you observed in Samuels. He can exude confidence and provide reassurance even in the deepest misery
 

Samuels agrees that he is well suited to perform the role of anchor better than anyone else in the team, considering he has done the same in the past. "I'm batting at four, so I've been carrying a lot of load for the team," he said. "I'll definitely continue to play that role and take a lot of responsibility. I have to bat through the innings. Depending on the situation I have to speed it up or slow it down. A lot of it is a thinking process. At the moment mine is the anchor role, so I have to bat through, but I can make up for it at the end because there are still a lot of shots that I can play at the end."

It is not just experience he is relying on. Technically he has been trying to work hard on encountering the seaming conditions prevalent in England. Like he had done before the England tour last year, Samuels revealed that he had worked extensively, playing against the taped ball.

"It is a rubber ball with tape on one side," he said. "It swings a lot. I practise with it a lot especially before I come to England. It works well for me.

"You can't just come here and bat. Last year was a big moment for me where I had to come here and score some runs. I make plans and work towards it."

Observed from a distance Samuels can come across as isolated from the pack. At The Oval, on a cold Sunday morning, Samuels sat by the picket fence below the dressing room for about half an hour, padded up, gloves in hand, exchanging banter with a team official. His non-branded bat rested like an oar by his side, even as other batsmen, including Gayle, enjoyed blasting the ball out of the ground in the distance. As Darren Bravo, taking throwdowns from Ravi Rampaul nearby, hit the ball towards him, Samuels remained unmoved, forcing Rampaul to retrieve the ball himself.

It is the same stillness you see in Samuels' stance. He can exude confidence and provide reassurance even in the deepest misery. Take the World Twenty20 final, when West Indies were 32 for 2 after ten overs. Samuels single-handedly swung the momentum with a ferocious half-century as West Indies picked 105 runs off the final ten overs. It was an assault that silenced Sri Lanka.

Samuels has reiterated at every opportunity that the biggest lesson he learned from the ban was to be more responsible. And that will always stand him in good stead. "To be honest, for the last two years, being out and coming back and playing have created a lot of responsibility around me outside of cricket," he said. "So going out there and playing the role that I'm playing right now, I find it much easier because off the field I have greater responsibility."

That includes looking after his kids and taking care of his numerous dogs. "They can't feed themselves. I'm taking care of my entire family. I can't afford to fail because I'm the breadwinner. For me to come out here and play the anchor role for the team, the entire Caribbean - I really enjoy it."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Nampally on (June 10, 2013, 19:53 GMT)

While Gayle provides the power to start the innings in high gear, Samuels is the Sheet anchor which provides the cruise control for the WI batting to roll on. He truly holds the batting together like a lone Ranger & last man standing. India has to focus on getting Gayle contained & removing Samuels early if they have to win the match. Of course both the teams are fighting to win their second match to advance into the Semi's. The 2 teams are evenly matched with Indian bowling being the weak link. If the wicket favours spinners, India stands a good chance. But if the wkt. is for the seamers, it is likely to be evenly matched contest. WI has good seamers & India has batting to cope with them. But what India lacks is economical seamers- both Ishant & Yadev have been leaking runs at an "unbelievable" rate. Will India go with Irfan Pathan replacing Ishant to have a lid on economy rate, remains to be seen. Clearly India included Wrong Sharma - Ishant instead of superior Mohit or Sandeep!

Posted by gsingh7 on (June 10, 2013, 11:27 GMT)

@ali-- lucky pak got misbah to thanks otherwise they wud have folded for 75 runs

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 10:48 GMT)

Samules has obviously read Viv Ricahards who said that everytime he went out to bat, he felt that he was battling "for the liberation of oppressed poeples everywhere." There is both good and bad in that, if that is how Samules feels: The good is of course the taking up of responsibility; the down side is that he is taking on an enormous burden , which is of course fine, as long as he has the talent to go with it.West Indian cricket needs both the talent and the responsibliity from its players. With Samuels taking up the burden and Shiv's approach of "no talk, just runs", even if for just for a couple of years more, WI has headed the corner. Good luck boys>

Posted by yocasi on (June 10, 2013, 10:43 GMT)

Great to hear Samuels, a Jamaican, talk about being West Indian.Unlike some of his misguided, parochial countrymen, he understands that if we don't go it together, we'll just wither away. All the best for the rest of your career, Marlon.

Posted by   on (June 10, 2013, 10:40 GMT)

Sarwan as opener and Sammy in will strenthen batting and bowling

Posted by Ali_86xz on (June 10, 2013, 10:26 GMT)

Lucky Indians aren't going to play Dinda, don't ever make that mistake or he will go for170+ in his 10, not to forget it's not only Gayle, there is Pollard, Bravo, Samuels and co.

Posted by csrao86 on (June 10, 2013, 9:21 GMT)

Match will be interesting to watch Gayle vs Kohli

Posted by Rising_Edge1234 on (June 10, 2013, 9:14 GMT)

Samuels is a class act! I hope we can field the same team against India that we played Pak(keeping my fingers crossed for Ramdin). I know we can take India. Go Windies!

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