39 Tests, three Test hundreds, an average of just over 30 and a ban for match-fixing -- these aren’t stats that would make any batsman proud. The bio data you just read belongs to Marlon Nathaniel Samuels. Despite being around the West Indies cricket scene for 12 years, the prodigiously talented Samuels hasn’t managed to establish himself as a regular in the team. There has never been any doubt about his potential. However, the performances just never came. Even after playing 130 ODIs, he hasn’t succeeded in taking his average above a disappointing 30.
There are signs of encouragement though if you are a Samuels fan. His last two knocks against England have been a striking 86 at Lord’s and an unbeaten ton on the opening day of the Trent Bridge Test. More than the runs scored, it has been the manner in which he has compiled his innings that has been more alleviating from a West Indian point of view. During both the knocks, Samuels came in when West Indies were under extreme pressure. And while his impressive innings at Lord’s couldn’t rescue the side from defeat, it gave him and the team some much-needed confidence going into Trent Bridge.
The new-found assurance was visible in the manner Samuels went about constructing his century under extreme pressure. He came in when West Indies were already down in the dumps, but unlike in the years gone by, he did not throw his wicket away, going for flashy strokes. Instead, he was prepared to put a price tag on his wicket. The fact that he faced 225 balls on the opening day of the Test illustrated this aspect of his knock. Samuels’ ton was even more crucial when one takes into consideration the fact that Shivnarine Chanderpaul could not build on a start for a change. It must, however, be considered as a blessing in disguise for Windies. The veteran left-hander is at the fag end of the career, and the side desperately needs some other senior to take on the responsibility from the ageing Chanderpaul.
In his last two knocks, Samuels has shown the capability and, more significantly, the resolve to follow in Chanderpaul’s massive footsteps, which can only be good news for West Indies. However, the 31-year-old must not rest on his laurels now. Knowing well that he hasn’t done justice to his talent over the years, Samuels should be hungry for even bigger scores. He still has a few years on his side to make up for lost time. Whether he has the craving to do the same, only time will tell.
- By A Cricket Analyst