West Indies v India, 2nd Test, Bridgetown, 3rd day June 30, 2011

Redemption in the air for Samuels


Marlon Samuels is almost invisible as a batsman. He is a statue in motion. You don't see his runs build up; he has a way of sneaking up on you. Yet you notice him because of this invisibility.

There is a lightness of touch about him that sets him apart. He doesn't drive hard; he caresses. He doesn't cut; he laces it. He doesn't leave hurriedly; he calmly allows the ball to pass through. He doesn't rush between wickets; he glides. He doesn't have an aggressive back-lift or bat speed; he seems to lift it gently and bring it down even more so. There are no nervous mannerisms; he stands almost still between deliveries. Nor does he walk about, or furiously tap the pitch, his white full-sleeved flannels hardly seem to get crumpled; he just stands there at the crease holding his bat, waiting for the bowler to reach the top of his run-up. He rarely shows much emotion.

And yet, as he revealed later, cricket is at its most emotional phase for him right now. Every time he stepped out after a rain break, he said, he would dedicate the knock to his kids. Before this Test, he was like a boxer who couldn't wait for the fight to start. He was gutted at being dropped from the first Test, was focussed on making this one count, was determined to not be sucked in by the vagaries of weather and the pitch, and wanted to seal his spot.

Before this comeback, he was known for a few things: The ban, the handshake with Chris Gayle and talent that had turned against itself. Today, though, redemption was in the air.

Samuels' moments of struggle reflected his character. His first scoring shot on the off side came off his 35th delivery. The first 13 balls in particular were hellish. Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar were probing him on the line outside off. Some cut in, a few straightened and Samuels was beaten several times. But not once did he chase a ball. The back leg would go across, the bat would come down gently and just about stop inside the line as the ball rushed past the edge.

Survival looked bleak. The pitch felt venomous. His own personal context should have been making him feel claustrophobic. What was he feeling? "I tell myself I have to spend good time out there to get runs," Samuels said. "This is Test cricket. My facing 30 to 40 balls and not scoring is not a problem for me at the moment." It used to be. Not any longer. The itch to dominate and show off his style has receded.

"I am very focussed, you know," Samuels said. "I scored 55 in my last Test and was left out. The fire is burning harder inside me now; as long as there is an opportunity I am going to grab it with both hands."

The Indians kept coming at him. Praveen hustled between deliveries. He rarely walked back to his run-up; he marched across. There wasn't much time to breathe easy for Samuels. Praveen curved the ball from off; Samuels kept leaving. Praveen then got it to swing from the middle; Samuels defended. Praveen tried to start it from middle and leg; Samuels tucked them to the leg side.

Ishant hit the deck and got the ball to either cut in or straighten. Samuels hung on at his crease and moved late. The hands adjusted to the movement and the bat moved in time to cover the line. Ishant then bounced him. Samuels was even hit once on the chest. As ever, there was no emotion. Ishant kept probing outside off; Samuels was beaten a few times but he rarely let it affect his shot selection. In between overs, every now and then, Samuels and Ishant would share a quiet smile. "On and off the field Ishant and I are competing. He bowled pretty well but as I kept telling him, he didn't get me out," Samuels said with a smile.

He looked set for a hundred but his partners let him down. A gritty, unbeaten 78 should have been a satisfying experience but Samuels is thirsting for more. "I have raised my bar. I have set bigger standards. I am not satisfied. I wanted to get 100 today. I have been scoring hundreds and double hundreds since my return. I want the world to see that I can score double centuries and be very consistent."

Something has definitely changed. The younger Samuels used to give the impression he didn't care much. The game seemed to come too easily to him to sweat over anything. "I am very emotional about my cricket now. I have been through a lot. I have faced a lot of obstacles and plan for more. I take life more seriously now. I take cricket more seriously now." Samuels is 30 now and is in a hurry to make up for the lost years.

Sriram Veera is a staff writer at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2011, 14:19 GMT

    it is time the w/i get the rid of sammy/and baugh bring in gayle and roach and taylor my 11 would be gayle/barrat/sarwan /bravo chanderpaul/samuels /simmons as wk bats /bhisso/ roach/ ramphal/ edwards that will be my 11 edwards is too wild to be in the team /sammy /cannot command a place so out with him too/baugh have had a long run without anything to show we need a good w/k/ bat wi will not beat anybody with the present side they have it is time we get the rid of the selectors who dont seems to have a clue about what is going on .on the subject of samuels and lawrence rowe that is like chalk to cheese there have never been and will never be another like lawrence george rowe in terms of grace and timing still the best at the late cut and very good player of the wrist so dont lets go there also samuels have no 1 to blame for his position at the moment but himself i remember when he said the sun is too hot to practice so he still have more to prove to the world i was 1 of his fa

  • Anthony on July 1, 2011, 14:11 GMT

    i love watching Samuels bat. As everyone know by now Sammy need to be replace with immediate effect. good luck boyz

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2011, 13:45 GMT

    I never gave up hope on Marlon Samuels, I knew he would be back and a 2 years layoff wouldnt affect his batting. The charges and ban were trumped up but I knew they would have served a purpose - it would show Marlon that he could lose everything in the blink of an eye if he wasnt careful.

    Just before his ban he was already showing that he was serious and his scores against South Africa away and India at home showed he was serious but he was still impulsive, now he's willing to bat all day to get a ton and that is what is needed from him. He's 30 and realistically has another 6-8 years at his disposal to make up for the failures of the first 10 years and I have no doubt that he will justify his early promise.

    Welcome back Marlon, here's to your future.

  • avert on July 1, 2011, 13:00 GMT

    i like the set up of the team. i would like to see gayle openning the batting and simmons keeps wicket. gayle/kieron powell, barath, sarwan, darren, chanderpaul, samuels, simmons, sammy,rampual, bishoo, and edwards (roach & deonarine)

  • David on July 1, 2011, 12:28 GMT

    @shiloh3lbs.. Joke of the YEAR!! :Sammy who is preventing another fast bowler, who should have been playing in this match. As a matter of fact, Roach can bat better than sammy. lol!! but it's not far from the truth.. and i also agree with you that Marlon should be the captain.. since he's showin his maturity rite now.. only question is abwt his leadership abilities and field placements..

  • Muthuvel on July 1, 2011, 12:22 GMT

    @ chris ward india beat eng home and away, i think you need to stay quite. beating aus does not make you number 2, no 2 is SA. it funny how eng think they are the best shamelessly without winning a single test in india for the past several seasons.

  • Muthuvel on July 1, 2011, 12:13 GMT

    i want this gus to do well, never forget what you said samuels, keep trying dont quit.

  • Kamal on July 1, 2011, 12:09 GMT

    good going Sameuls. very unfortunate couldn't get the century since he was set for it... WI need to bowl out India and chase a score not more than 200. I see some of you guys list a team for 3rd test. As much as I will like Gayle to be back, we all should be realistic. The Board will not sort out issues with him in time. WI need him at top order, and knowing Gayle if he returns he will return with a big score. WI need him to help boost the team score. I think than Sammy should sit out the next game and pave the way for an additional pace bowler like Roach. WI are missing him in this test... Whoever comes out on top in this morning's session on the 4th day will win the test match....

  • Henderson on July 1, 2011, 9:34 GMT

    Darren needs to emulate Marlon's illustration of how to bat against tough bowling on an indifferent pitch, which it seems Desmond Haynes has been coaching. Marlon believes in it so much that he looks alot like Desmond Haynes at the crease. Right now, the pressure of batting at #3 or #4 is not good for Darren. Swapping places in the batting order with the in-form Samuels could help him settle into a groove that can bring positive results for himself and the team .

  • Dummy4 on July 1, 2011, 9:03 GMT

    Talent has never been the issue for Marlon Samuels. Even his style and bravado of the younger days never obscured a shine which had people earmarking him as the next Caribbean batting hope. Instead he threw it all away with some callous decisions on and off the field. The good thing is he has emerged through the trauma to become a man, rather than an overgrown kid who thought he could beat the system ... hope he justifies his billing now.

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