Samuels aims to sustain imperious form
THERE has been a lot of talk about the return of Christopher Gayle to the West Indies Test squad after an absence of almost two years.
The strategists within the New Zealand set-up will no doubt have carefully laid-out plans on how to stop the big left-hander when the Digicel Test series begins today in Antigua.
The forever-young and resolute Shivnarine Chanderpaul will also be specially targeted.
The Kiwis' brain banks will be well-served, however, to not overlook the imperious form of Marlon Samuels.
From a team perspective, West Indies were palpably out-matched on the recent tour of England, but the elegant middle-order batsman battled the tide manfully against the rampant hosts.
Samuels totalled 386 runs in five innings at an average of 96.50. Batting at either number five or six in a line-up that was hugely inconsistent, he scored one hundred and three half-centuries and was often left to milk runs in the company of the tailenders.
The 31-year-old, whose overall Test average is 33.48 after 40 matches, said his renewed focus and discipline at the crease paid dividends against what he felt was a first-rate English bowling attack.
"Going to England I knew it was going to be tough so I put in a lot of hard work and it paid in the end.
"The conditions were challenging. It was cold and the ball kept moving around. I had a plan to leave alone a lot of balls and let them bowl to me," he said recently.
"You have to put them (the English bowlers) at the top of the table because they (England) are the number one team in the world," he said.
The Jamaican gave the New Zealand team a first-hand view of what he can do while notching a century during the just-concluded One-Day International (ODI) series victory.
Though both teams are ranked low down on the ICC's totem pole, Samuels urged the Caribbean outfit to "take the advantage and continue to win games against New Zealand".
When asked about any thoughts he may have of gently prodding his bosses into pushing him up the batting order this series, the self-assured batsman said:
"I leave that up to the management (team). My runs will speak for me. If I'm put at seven I'll bat there. If they put me at number three or to open (the innings), I'll bat there as well."