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Marlon Samuels: Unsung hero

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Marlon_Samuels_West_Indies_cricketYou are in awe of Lara for that flair and flamboyance. You value Chanderpaul as West Indies’ rock. For Gayle, effusive praise adorns those 2 triple hundreds, that incredible 175 in the IPL and those boisterous Gangnam moves.

Sammy the inspirational leader, not even a part of the national team at this point, has got a stadium named after him. And it’s not particularly difficult to see why fans love Sunil Narine: perhaps as much for his Mohawks as for his big-hitting and mystery-tweaking ways.  

But where’s the love for Marlon Samuels? Surely, the scorer of over 9000 international runs, someone with 17 hundreds and over 50 half centuries, must have done something to stand out? 

Why doesn’t Marlon Samuels- an integral part of West Indies’ twin-successes at the ICC World T20- feature among his famous Caribbean contemporaries, who find plaudits, not just on social media but elsewhere, where T20 is obsessed over, akin to an episode from the Game of Thrones series?

You could be forgiven for thinking that it might bother the gum-chewing West Indian who once famously declared himself the “Iceman of Cricket.” He perhaps saw himself as an unflappable bloke, one who doesn’t buckle under pressure.

Truth be told, this is the quiet conundrum concerning the 36-year-old Jamaican, who’s been around, believe it or not, for 17 years. 

It isn’t challenging anyone’s imagination to note just how the West Indies currently languish in either formats of the game. With chances of a Test revival, pragmatically lying somewhere in distant future, resting only on a Gabriel, Dowrich or Chase, it doesn’t help that the current team, might not qualify for the ICC World Cup 2019. 

The only relief, if it could be said, sought by West Indian fans, as their critics increase upon every game where mediocrity breeds freely, is by examining their T20 rankings. 

Thankfully, not plummeting at the bottom-most place, above the pool of associate nations that ever threaten to whisk past the waning side in other formats, West Indies stand a point shy from overtaking Australia in World T20 rankings, above the likes of Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. 

And it is in this very format where some classics albeit hitherto-underrated epics have come from Marlon Samuels’ blade.

Not big-hitting Pollard, not ever agile all-rounder DJ Bravo but its Marlon Samuels who’s the most consistent scorer for West Indies in national T20 duties. 

For someone who quite honestly takes time to get going, often in an inning where immediate acceleration holds most value, 724 of his T20 career runs have come alone in the last three and a half years.

In a format that seemingly is built on the fabric of big-hitting, often personifying its power through mindless heaves and blows, Samuels’ been a blade that’s diligently sliced West Indian opponents- taking the attack to everyone, right from R. Ashwin to Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan, Ajantha Mendis to Imran Tahir.

Someone who’s seen close friend and wrecker- in- chief, Chris Gayle dismantle the best bowling attacks from the opposite end, the world has seemed a different place altogether when it’s accorded Samuels a chance to offer his best on the batting crease. 

And where most mortals fail to get going, despite making mental notes in lamenting T20 as being no more than the sport’s briefest format, Samuels, has batted with a distinct unflappability, in collecting those 1423 runs from merely 55 innings.

But what’s most impressive about the right-hander, quite like his flourishing cover drive, are the silent epics he’s carved for West Indies during inarguably, their greatest T20 moments in the sport. 

Whether it’s that heroic 78 off 56 during Windies’ maiden title triumph, World T20 2012, a knock personified by the lashing of Malinga that included 6 sixes or that 85 off 66 against England during last year’s Caribbean storm against England, in the World T20, 2016- Samuels’ been beating West Indies’ opponents left right and center, when it’s most mattered. 

In his committed run scoring spree in T20s, a facet sadly outshined by the clamor of his team’s collective decline in ODIs and Tests- Marlon’s been a bloke who takes pleasure in seeing through opponents who offer him a cold-blooded stare. And, he’s also been someone, who, when most frustrated, expresses vindication funnily through spreading his legs across a media table, whilst addressing a press conference in the aftermath of a title triumph. 

Remember Eden Gardens, April 3, 2016?

That said, it’s rather strange and baffling that neither Pollard- 193 T20 runs for Windies from 2014-17, nor Bravo- 403 T20 runs from 2014-17 have been able to reach anywhere close to Samuels, who’s scored 500 runs in the last 3 years alone for national duties.

Where most of their senior willowers, whether due to rifts with their board or solely by choice have opted for freelancing T20 duties, Samuels’ made himself available for national selection, barring the just concluded IPL

Why then is Samuels’ selflessness not celebrated while a Gayle continues to make news, whether for starring in a brand renowned for safe sex is a mystery stranger than Bermuda Triangle’s. 

For someone who could’ve chosen on not making himself available for the just concluded T20s against Afghanistan, which the Windies won 3-0, it’s a sedate kind of delight to observe the soft-taking, lazily walking Jamaican carve muscular pulls and enigmatic glances mirroring the ease of a child throwing pebbles onto a pond.

In helping the West Indies achieve a rarity in their cricket; a clean sweep, even though against Afghanistan, Samuels, very nearly saved his team once again as familiar mediocrity nearly threatened to curb his sides’ petulant wish to win a tournament against an associate nation.

So would respect finally greet Marlon, who scored an 89 off 66 on June 6, 2017, thus taking Windies home, yet again or would the world conveniently snub his silent contributions in its celebration of everything glib, fluffy and, ballistic that’s the West Indies- we still have no answer.

 

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