Sport

Marlon Samuels back with a bang

...Batsman looks to the future after marvelous T20 World Cup

By Howard Walker Observer Senior Reporter walkerh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 13, 2012    

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In 2002, his 108 not out off 75 balls was said to be the best one-day innings Carl Hooper had seen. His 78 from 56 balls in the Twenty20 final was hailed as one of the best Chris Gayle has ever seen. His 257 against Queensland at the Gabba remains the highest first-class record and his 300 for local club Melbourne was a classic.

Marlon Nathaniel Samuels at 31, is no stranger to performing brilliantly at times but despite his immense ability, he has so far struggled to realise his potential.

That potentential was evident for the world to see as he single-handily rescued the West Indies from the precarious position of 30-2 after 10 of the 20 overs were completed to a fighting 136.

But in achieving that Samuels had no time to waste as Sri Lanka was on top especially with their top pace bowler Lasith Malinga in full cry.

Samuels hit Malinga for five sixes, three in the 13th over on his way to a match-winning 78, thus pulling the West Indies from a poor start to a decent score.

"At 30-2 Sri Lanka was on top of the world, and if I could take out their best bowler and at the moment, I was thinking of licking the sting out of the rest of players looking on. That was definitely the plan," Samuels told the Jamaica Observer on his arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport on Wednesday.

"If you have watched my game over the years, you would have seen similar innings like that one. But what makes this one so special is because it's a final," noted Samuels.

When quizzed if that was the best innings he has ever played, the former Kingston College student, said: "It's a final, I will leave it up to you to rate it."

"I have been in situations like that before with a poor start, pitch playing a bit roll and a bit of experience came in knowing that as long as I stick through the tough times, then eventually I will start striking the ball properly," he noted.

"Looking at the pitch, it looked a good one but I know that the pitch was dry so I didn't expect it to come through as much as possible, so I played the way that I saw it," Samuels added.

"But the mindset after that, we were looking at 160 and between 140-150 would be a challenging total. We didn't reach the target but after making 137, we had a few speeches to motivate the guys that we can defend this. I spent some time on the pitch, so inside I told them that this is a tough pitch and we need to put the ball in the right areas and create that pressure," he pointed out.

Samuels served a two-year ban from cricket between 2008 and 2010, after Indian police accused him of giving out team information to a known bookie prior to the first one-day international between the West Indies and India in Nagpur on January 21, 2007. His talent has never been in doubt but his commitment has.

Back in 2000 he was tossed into the West Indies Test team before he had played a first-class game for Jamaica at age 19 and he never really lived up to the expectation of one of the region's most talented players.

Since that recall in 2011, he has averaged 47 in Test cricket. Before that he was under 30, a travesty for someone with such obvious talent.

Following his Man of the Match award in the final of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup, the normally calm, cool and collective Samuels showed a lot of emotions during the post-match interview and he spoke about it.

"Tough times, and the two years... that two years was very unjust but I continued to use it to motivate me and I will never forget it. It's working in my favour cause I am using it to motivate myself at the moment," Samuels told the throng of reporters at the Pineapple Lounge inside the Norman Manley International Airport.

But the man who has jumped 20 places to 18th in the Twenty20 world batting rankings said Test cricket is where his heart is.

"Well for me Test cricket is the cricket that I love. Twenty 20 is fun so I am looking to have a better Test career," said Samuels, who averages almost 33 at the moment from 39 matches and 2,134 runs.

"I want to be a Test batsman and be number one in the world as a T20 batsmen and number one in the world as a Test batsman (and that) would be a great achievement," he pointed out.

"I want to be number one and I am moving up the ladder in Test cricket and I will continue to work hard and be number one before I finish," Samuels added.

Samuels, with a first-class high score of 257, said he loves to set himself targets. "I have a lot of plans and the bar continues to rise especially when I achieve my goals. I continue to rise my bar so what I can say is that you can continue to look out for a more mature cricketer, a more improved cricketer and I will continue to work as hard as possible."

Te talented cricketer has promised that the world will see much more from him starting as soon as the next Test against Bangladesh.

"Every time I talk things before it happen, so I guess you could see by now I like to put myself under pressure and I remember that I did an interview in Jamaica and said that I am looking to make a double century so, when I am in Bangladesh, that will definitely be on my mind, the day before and in training. I like to put myself under pressure cause it brings out the best in me," he concluded.

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