West Indies have produced many great batsmen over the years – from Gary Sobers to Clive Lloyd and Vivian Richards to Brian Lara. Even in recent years, with the standard of West Indian cricket falling disappointingly, they have managed to produce excellent batsmen like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and even Chris Gayle. Marlon Samuels, with the amount of talent he possessed, could well have been the latest addition to the list. But, 14 years after he made his much hyped debut, Samuels is yet to establish himself as a permanent member of the West Indian team, which is a shame given the gift he was endowed with.
Samuels entered international cricket as a 19-year-old who had unbelievable talent, and promised much in his debut Test series in Australia in 2000. Batting against the Aussies, who were at their peak of their bowling powers back then, Samuels stood up to the challenge rather impressively. Even as some of the more experienced batsmen in the team struggled, Samuels made batting looking fluidly easy. He did not get many big scores on the tour, but for a youngster featuring in his first series against the best side in the world, he gave enough indication of his talent.
Following the 2000 series, hopes were high from Samuels. He was expected to be next big thing in West Indies. Unfortunately, that is not how things have panned out for the Windies and Samuels himself. He has been more out than in the side over the last 14 years. In fact, Samuels’ statistics point to the lack of progress his game has shown over the years. Samuels has featured in only 52 Tests since his debut, and averages a mediocre 34.6. He has played 159 one-dayers, but even in this format, his average is a poor 31.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Samuels has not lived up to his potential. There have been a number of reasons for the same. Indiscipline is definitely one of the key factors behind his failures. On numerous occasions, he has thrown his wicket away after looking at ease. Off the field as well, he has had issues. In fact, he was almost sent back from the 2002 tour of India, after breaking team rules. Then, there was the bookie controversy, following which he lost two years of his peak career. The distraction of being reported for his suspect bowling action didn’t help his cause.
Having been dropped for the New Zealand and Bangladesh series at home, he has now been recalled for the ODIs in India. Samuels will turn 34 early next year, and thus this might be the last chance for him to give his international career better shape. He has tasted success in India before; in fact it was here where he registered his maiden Test hundred. Thus, Samuels should be looking forward to the challenge. However, what would be interesting is how focused he is on the job at hand. It is too late for him to earn the ‘great’ tag, but he still has a chance to go for a final hurrah.
--By A Cricket Analyst