“His shot-selection have been horrendous on occasions and his lack of footwork has undone the most arduous efforts but it is no secret that he has been a silent guardian to the youngsters, who regularly turn to him for advice”
The burden of expectations can sting, especially when a player is the most experienced player in a line-up of young stalwarts who are eager to leave a mark in hostile conditions. The senior pro is likened to a wise shepherd, equipped with the task of guiding an excited but clueless herd towards the right direction. Marlon Samuels, who recently played his 200th ODI in the series against India, was bestowed with that responsibility in the absence of senior players, who have been treading the route towards T20 cricket over the 50-over format.
Though the Windies have mightily impressed with their limited resources in the four games thus far, what has stood out has been the poor run of form off Samuels’ blade, even as Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer have exemplified calmness and Ashley Nurse came to the rescue of his team with a quickfire 40 in the series.
The senior-most player, it can be argued, has faced only 52 balls in four games, but not in one match has he looked aggressive or looked intent to attack. He has trudged out like a man burdened with the task of guiding the young hopefuls, only to ironically walk back as an example of how not to approach a game. He has gone unnecessarily after Khaleel Ahmed, with the team in disarray. He has looked clueless against the spin twins Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal – with the latter not being the greatest turner of the ball. From smashing the likes of Anil Kumble, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath in his heydays to now struggling to find any sort of momentum in the series, Samuels’ story seems to be on a decline.
But the fact that a quiet eye has been on Samuel’ progress even as the younger guns were blazing away signify the kind of impact that he has created over the years. His expectations arise from his ability to stand as the rock for his team once, heralding a new-age West Indies side even as Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were readying themselves to leave the international stage.
3 of his ten international tons have come against India in India, with a total of six hundreds in Asia – a remarkable feat indeed considering that most outsiders from countries where the ball swings find it hard to acclimatize to tracks where the ball keeps low and slow. He is not only the most successful batter from Windies against India, scoring 960 runs in the country, he is also the second-most successful cricketer against India in India, after Ricky Ponting. He left behind Kevin Pietersen and Tillakaratne Dilshan on this tour.
His persistent showings over the years displayed that the fighting spirit was still intact in a side that was finding it tough to stitch together the aura of yesteryear. In Samuels, West Indies saw hope and aspiration; a guide who would effectively stand tall in the transition phase.
However, though he has lived on to face some memorable triumphs, he has been inconsistent as well, with abysmal lows coming in dozens in his career. His potential has left a lot to be desired and an average of just 33.20 in 192 innings shows the patchiness that has engulfed him. He has waived off pressure on some occasions with a flair on nonchalance that has made him a hero back in the Caribbean – most recently in the World Cup Qualifiers, where he played a crucial knock against Zimbabwe in a do-or-die match – but at the same time he has left his side in disarray at the most crucial moments, leaving them scratching their heads at the utter irresponsibility that he exhibits.
His shot-selection have been horrendous on occasions and his lack of footwork has undone the most arduous efforts but it is no secret that he has been a silent guardian to the youngsters, who regularly turn to him for advice. With Windies coach Stuart Law suggesting the importance of the player in the side, it is no secret that Samuels plays a much bigger role than the one we see on the field.
The young West Indies side arrived in India will nill expectations but have impressed with their steely fearlessness and for their sake, it is hoped that Samuels can raise his game a notch higher in the fifth ODI to save the side from yet another series loss.