West Indies hero says he wanted to pay Lasith Malinga back ever since Malinga got Samuels out bowled in the IPL
Since winning the ICC World Cup 1979, the ICC Champions Trophy 2004 is the only major event that West Indies has won. Marlon Samuels was not part of that squad, just as he hadn’t been part of many others during what has been a turbulent 12-year career. On Sunday night at the Premadasa Stadium, however, Samuels was the undoubted star, scoring 57 percent of the team’s runs and then taking 1-15 from four tidy overs as West Indies defended a modest 137 successfully.
Halfway through the innings, the scoreboard showed 32-2. When Lasith Malinga came on to the bowl the 13th over, the run-rate was exactly four. It went for 21, with Samuels smashing three sixes. “I was still waiting there for someone to come and build a partnership,” said Samuels. “Since that did not happen, I decided to take on Malinga. From last night, I was playing Malinga in my mind and I decided to take him on.”
By the time he holed out, he had made 78 from just 56 balls and given West Indies something to bowl at. Exactly half his runs came off Malinga, who he took for five sixes in just 11 balls faced. “I only faced him one time, the first game against Mumbai, and he got me out bowled,” said Samuels of his previous contest with Malinga, during last season’s Indian Premier League. “I was very upset. This was my time today to get back at him.”
Once West Indies had the runs on the board, Samuels was fairly confident it could win. “Having batted most of the overs on the pitch, my advice was that it was still a challenging total,” he said. “The pitch was a tough one. As long as we could get some quick wickets and put the pressure on Sri Lanka, it would work in our favour.”
Samuels made his Test debut in Australia in 2000-01, a series that West Indies lost 5-0. His career since has been a chequered one, encompassing suspensions, queries over his action and doubts about his attitude. “The career has been up and down,” he said. “There have been a lot of tough times. I dealt with them in simple ways and tried to let them pass. Being under pressure on a cricket field is nothing compared to what I’ve been through off the field.
“As my mentor always said to me, everything that happened to me in life is because I’m important. I’m not someone that will ever give up. I never say die. The person that I am deep down inside is the reason why I am still here playing cricket. I have a family that believes in me. If outsiders don’t, it doesn’t really matter to me.”
Samuels was lost for words when it came to explaining the significance of this triumph. “We haven’t been winning any major title for years now,” he said. “This is a great achievement, for past cricketers and for these cricketers who have bonded together to form a strong unit.” Clutching the trophy close, he added: “The entire Caribbean embraces it. The sky is the limit and words can’t really explain it. It means the world to us.”
According to him, staying grounded had played a big part in West Indies coming through to win a tournament that it didn’t start especially well. “They labelled us favourites coming into this tournament,” said Samuels. “We put that to the side. We can be the favourites, but at the end of the day we have to come up trumps with our best cricket.
“In the past, we had some near misses but nevertheless, God willing, we came out on top. We are here today to say that West Indies cricket is back, regardless of the situation. This is T20, but it can bring a lot of fans to watch us around the world, people who still love West Indies cricket.
“We will celebrate as long as possible and enjoy the moment. We haven’t won a major title for a long time. This a moment to cherish, and cherish forever but we have a lot of cricket to look forward to before the year is finished.”
Very few will grudge them those celebrations.