June 27, 2011

At home with Marlon Samuels

Marlon Samuels talks about family, cricket, and getting his life back on track

"Sometimes you are just living carefree. It takes something to happen to you to realise how precious life is. I appreciate life more now. You trust in god and animals. You don't trust man. Anything happened to me god wanted it to happen to me. This is my story and this is my book."

Marlon Samuels is sitting under a mango tree. Three dogs that he loves - Samson the labrador, Simba the akita, and Sheba the pit-bull are licking his feet and hands. We are at the lovely backyard of his house in a scenic neighbourhood in Jamaica. The grass is green, trees abound, gentle breeze wafts by, and he almost looks at peace. Inside, in a room, nine puppies lie entwined in a big basket. The man loves his dogs. They adore him. He seems a lot freer in their company and he opens up. The world knows his story: the ban, the self-destructing talent … the path to hell. This is a new chapter of his story and he seems to be eager to fill it up with his accomplishments and leave his past behind.

"My daughter changed the mindset when it comes to ladies. You have more respect for ladies. Every sportsman will tell you that you can get caught up in the lifestyle." He says he is off the party scene now. His daughter Dijona, four years old, and a nine-month-old son, Dimitri, are changing his life. Dijona in particular. Samuels' mind is opening up to a different world, a fascinating universe of a little kid. "She talks a lot. She tells me everything that happened in her day." She even reads him bed-time stories. "She doesn't allow me to read, you know," he laughs. She is at summer school and isn't there now. His girlfriend is away. The house isn't loaded with furniture. The dogs have a lot of free space to run around. Samuels' man-Friday Shaun takes care of the dogs and is the chef. "Samuels is my god. He always look-out for me," says a grateful Shaun. Back in the city, the street kids too offer more praise about Samuels. They call him Tota. They say he gives them money for school fees and that he constantly helps them.

Everything is quiet back at the house. Shaun is at the front, washing the cars. A Toyota Tundra and a Chevrolet are gleaming in the afternoon sun. Samuels is in the garden with his dogs. At times he says he reads a book, sitting under that tree. "Marcus Garvey. Malcolm X. Some people fall by the wayside but remember they are fighting for the positive thing." He read 'Who moved my cheese?' on a successful tour of South Africa. "You know that book? With two little people and two mice. The two mice end up a little bit smarter than the two people. Reading good maan."

Often, through our free-flowing chat, he keeps coming back to his dogs and his mistrust of men. There doesn't seem to be bitterness - at least it doesn't show - but he seems a man forever on guard. It's understandable. Bad things have happened. Much murky water has flown under the bridge. "I reflect on my day and what happened. Dog is a man's best friend. The only thing they can't do is talk…they show me signs…if I come and have a bad day…they rest their heads on my thigh, they lick my hands; these things help me totally forget about the bad day I am having." He hasn't named the puppies yet and just for fun he names them on the go - "That's 'cover-drive', this is 'on-drive', this one is the 'flick' - that shot by the master Tendulkar through midwicket you know, he is sleepy, this one loves to sleep .. this is Mishra - the inside-out over extra-cover!"

He says he is wary about letting new friends come in. "I don't need a hundred friends. New people coming into your life is very dangerous." You could understand his gesture of running all the way to shake the hands of Chris Gayle in the final ODI. He is loyal to his small group of friends, his family and the man he calls his angel, 'Donald', who used to be manager for his club. "He is my angel. He doesn't always agree with me and gives the straight talk. I really respect that. You don't want to be surrounded by people who say yes all the time."

He admits he did drift. He stepped out of house at the age of 15 to live alone. His parents didn't like it but they gave in. He wanted to experience freedom and take responsibility over his life. The personality grew, and negative elements slipped in occasionally. "I have seen a guy step on a guy's shoe and get shot right in front of me….and people pry on you more when you are famous…so I am off the party scene." The conversation drifts to marriage. "I will get married sometime. It's a good tradition."

Something stirs in him when he talks about cricket. That's what gives hope that this young talent is really keen to make it count this time. He talks about a game in India, a shot he played in Pakistan, his match in Australia, his contest in South Africa with a certain amount of buzz. You can sense he is missing it. He is trying to clean up his life.

"I used to be selfish with life. But it's not about me now. I live for my kids. I believe in a supreme being and I give thanks for all the good things in my life. My family has always backed me. I now dedicate each innings to some special person. I am aiming to score as many Test centuries as possible.

As he drives us back in his Tundra, he says, "No man know what life has store for them. That's why you should never give up. Never."

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Saim on June 28, 2011, 6:55 GMT

    Sounds like a good life, as for son dimitri, future WI cricketer anyone?

  • Isaac on June 28, 2011, 4:07 GMT

    We backing you here in Trinidad Maroln, and vGilchrist, who would you pick instead, yourself?

  • Basil on June 27, 2011, 22:10 GMT

    I'd say after averaging only 28 from 30 Tests and still being considered in the team, Samuels should appreciate that he has got friends....in high positions.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 15:48 GMT

    good stuff marlon . all you need now is score some runs, takes some catches win some matches and you will be remebered other than another re-curring name from a dreadful team and a dreadful era . seriously it is sad that Tv footage of west indies cricket pre 1990 is so rare . two inning i saw by jamaicans at the oval in POS will stay with me for ever as examplles of Carib stroke play at its best . Yagga Rowe 123 v england 1974 and dujon vs australia 2nd tesr 1984 . marlon it would be great if you can add yourself to this list , you certainly have the talent ........

  • Michael on June 27, 2011, 13:44 GMT

    I wish him well. He is a very talented cricketer and has just graduated from the school of hard knocks. That experience will serve him well. He has the talent to be a stalwart for West Indies over the next few years. Let us hope he gets the chance to strut his stuff.

  • P Subramani on June 27, 2011, 12:12 GMT

    Marlon Samuels reminds me of Carl Hooper a great batsman from the Calypso islands who was relatively unsung. I wonder what the reason could be that this man has still not reached the level of greatness. After seeing him hit that hundred against India in a one dayer some years ago, there were no question that he was definitely a great in the making. Sports like music and dancing is almost a natural extension for people from African descent. Call it whatever you may but it will probably get illustrated if you consider that a cluster of tiny islands have contributed so much to the game of cricket.Marlon Samuels has probably lost out a lot but I think he still has a lot to give to a team which is on its way to where it belonged not very long ago. It is difficult to make a lineup of 11 players presently in the reckoning in West Indies. I wish there is a new WICB with someone like Wavell Hinds in charge. He is fairly recent and probably is in touch with the players.

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 9:41 GMT

    Bless him!!! He's been through it all, come out and wish him the best that his life has to offer. Would love to see him in the best of form as well for the windies...

  • Rahul on June 27, 2011, 7:13 GMT

    Simmons, D Bravo, Barath, Samuels, Bishoo, Rampaul, Roach and Russell...future seems to look good for WI. Also as Tony mentioned in recent article that their under 19s did well recently. If only seniors like Gayle, Sarwan and Chanderpaul could sort their personnel issues with board and guide these youngsters we could be in for a decent WI team and this is what all the CRICKET LOVERS WANT!

  • Vijayendra on June 27, 2011, 6:32 GMT

    I was hoping to read some kinda story about how the great Steve Waugh gifted Marlon Samuels his own red hanky. That could have been good! @Sriram Veera: Does it still have that hanky?

  • Dummy4 on June 27, 2011, 6:20 GMT

    It is very heartening to hear Marlon speak about being positive and trying to stay that way. I have followed him closely during his ban and he was just the same way....working hard and trying to fulfill his destiny by embracing his talent and utilizing it to its full potential. This is a man that was probably hand built for cricket....poise, balance, eagle eyes, quick hands etc. It is good to see him mature as a person before our eyes which just leaves the cricketing aspect of him to mature. As a fan, i just wanna wish him all the best and as Shiv says: just bat!!!

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