Samuels's night on his day
Marlon Samuels must make it his ambition to remove the words on his day from the keyboards of journalists and mouths of commentators when they talk about his batting
Marlon Samuels showed he's capable of unbelievable strokeplay when in the mood
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David Gower once wrote that the two words he hated the most, after "caught Dujon", were "laid back". He made batting look so easy that people were lulled into believing it came easily to him and, when he failed, that he didn't care enough about it. Marlon Samuels must make it his ambition to remove the words on his day from the keyboards of journalists and mouths of commentators when they talk about his batting. And that he can only do by playing like he did today, with regularity.
The talent is undeniably there. So much so that when he played his first defining innings - that blistering unbeaten 108 against India at Vijayawada
in 2002 to take the series scoreline from 3-3 to 4-3 in West Indies' favour, Viv Richards, who was with the team, was the first man on his feet, on the balcony applauding.
That was a series played on flat decks where both teams chased down scores in excess of 300 with an ease that was not de rigeur at the time; that was a series where both teams packed their sides with batsmen, and successive individuals just walked out and teed off, destroyed bowlers and made captains weep.
This series, though, hasn't been similar. Although the pitches for the Test series, which West Indies lost, had little in them for the bowlers, the surfaces for the one-dayers have been uncharacteristically spirited. There has been occasional kicking bounce, there has been turn, there's been a fair share of seam and swing. Inevitably, wickets have fallen early. And the challenge for batsmen has been to primarily to see off the new ball, and then consolidate and counterattack.
Samuels did that brilliantly today. For sure the ball was moving a bit early on, and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was putting a shape on it that would have tested any right-handed batsman, with the ball moving away late. Samuels played and missed a lot early on, often being squared-up and being made to look a bit foolish. Importantly, though, the ball merely beat the bat, it never took the edge.
Once Naved-ul-Hasan was out of the attack, Samuels knew that the toughest bit was behind him. With the pitch easing out - the ball did not move enough but still had decent carry - the ball came nicely on to the bat and Samuels could trust himself more, hitting through the line and over the top. The early signs of this expressiveness came when Rao Iftikhar Anjum was first chopped past gully and then blitzed through cover for consecutive boundaries; the confirmation was a pulled six off the same bowler that was pelted with so much power and timing that it sailed over midwicket.
If there was one batsman in world cricket who needed a big one, it was Samuels. Perhaps not so much to reconfirm his own belief in his ability but to remind the world what he is capable of
He brought up his half-century off only 61 balls and, with the team only needing to score at a little more than four runs an over, Samuels, batting up the order, was well in line to make a big one. But for three-and-a-half years - since June 8, 2003 against Sri Lanka at Barbados
, Samuels has never taken the chance. That was the last time he made it to 50. In the interim period, he was fast becoming a Mohammad Hafeez in reverse - going from a batsman who bowled a bit to a useful bowler who could contribute with the bat. When he batted low down the order you sometimes felt relieved, for a spot in the top four might have just exposed Samuels.
There was only so long that Samuels could ride on the back of that brilliant hundred against India. One international century does not make you a batsman - ask Ajit Agarkar, who has a Test hundred at Lord's. There was going to be a time when someone younger - like Lendl Simmons perhaps - came through the ranks, and the West Indies simply could not afford to carry Samuels any longer. Before this series began, Samuels had gone 22 matches without reaching 20
- to be fair to him he did bat low down the order in many of them - and in 13 of them he didn't even get to double figures.
If there was one batsman in world cricket who needed a big one, it was Samuels. Perhaps not so much to reconfirm his own belief in his ability - he said at the post-match presentation that he always knew he had it in him - but to remind the world what he is capable of. From writing off Samuels as someone who could have done so much, the conversation will now shift to just how much joy he brings with his unbelievable strokeplay - on his day.
Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo