Marlon Samuels Unplugged
Thu, Oct 13, '05
Marlon Samuels had barely played one first class match before he was picked by the West Indies selectors to face the mighty Australians in 2000. Back then, it was not the norm as it is now to pluck players from regional cricket and rush them into the Test arena without at least a full first class season under their belt.
Naturally, the selection raised a few eyebrows and generated rumbles of doubt from many quarters; but soon after Samuels marked his guard Down Under, his performance silenced the disbelievers. Tongues hung speechless as he delicately delivered masterful strokes.
Batting at number 6 in the second Test at Melbourne, Samuels stroked an unbeaten 60 and made the world, including venerable Aussie captain Steve Waugh, sit up and take notice. However, apart from a scintillating century in India in 2002, Samuels' career has nosedived.
A troublesome knee plus accusations of a liking for late nights and alleged 'attitude problems' resulted in Samuels being in and out of the West Indies team. Since 2000, he has played just 19 Tests, with his last being against the Sri Lankans in the 2003 home series.
Being left out from Bennett King's 22 man squad this year, amidst a hue and cry, was not what spurred him to notch his first century in regional four-day cricket after making his debut in 1997. "I was always motivated," said a calm Samuels at the time. "I use everything and just capitalize on every situation that comes along," he added.
For his many fans and the selectors alike, Samuels needs to capitalize on his selection to the full strength West Indies team that will leave the Caribbean next week for Australia. How much pressure does that place on him? Is it a make or break series? Is time running out for him?
The diplomatic and even philosophical 24-year-old answered those questions and more during the recent KFC Cup tournament. Find out also what he said that made CaribbeanCricket.com's Michelle McDonald call the Lord's name in vain.
You're back in the Test squad two years after playing your last test. What's your reaction to your selection?
Well it's always an honour to wear the West Indies crest again, to represent the entire region, and I think it's always a wonderful feeling especially when you know that you're out for a while and you get the opportunity to go back. It's just for me to grasp this opportunity with both hands, put everything behind me and move forward right now.
When you were first selected in 2000 you had played one first class match so you didn't have much experience. Much was expected from you? How much pressure did that place on you?
Well I had nothing to lose, and given the opportunity to go to Australia the first time, for your first Test match, I think you have nothing to lose so I went out there with a free mind so it wasn't a lot of pressure. I just went out there and played my game.
Given how your career has gone since that, would you suggest that cricketers need to have more first class experience before they play international cricket?
Well I wouldn't say that because I started off my career, not on a great note, but good enough. I didn't have a lot of first class cricket but I think it is wonderful to have a lot of first class experience because it counts in the longer run, especially when you have a good average. You can enter Test cricket with a better approach and with more common sense and less mistakes.
So was it your knee problem that caused you to be in and out of the team?
Yes, it's a lot of things but mainly it's my knee. I had at least three surgeries now and it has set me back a lot but as I said, I am putting everything behind me and am really looking forward to starting all over again.
The knee is ok now?
Yes, I haven't been troubled any at all since my last surgery and I have been playing consistently and I have been doing well and it's just getting stronger and stronger. I still continue to do the gym as well.
Do you have a specialized training routine because of the history of your knee problem?
Oh yes definitely. Is just that I wish I could do squats and stuff like that but I can't do squats because of the bone that has been moved from my knee. So squats are out of the question so I have to be doing leg curls to strengthen my hamstring and a lot more things. You see the guys working out, they spend a lot of time on their knees but they don't recommend me to spend any time on my knees.
The general consensus is that time might be running out for you to match talent with performance. Do you see this Australia series as a make or break series?
It's a make, because I love a challenge and I've been out for a while and I haven't been getting any great challenge. Yes, first class cricket is challenging but at the highest level, you've got less bad balls, five great bowlers; in first class cricket you might have two good bowlers so you see out the two good bowlers and you are able to make runs. With Test cricket every bowler is very good and you get less bad balls so your concentration level has to be very high.
So it 'tests' you more.
You've said recently that you're working on your mental aptitude and your social awareness. How are you getting along with that? Who is supporting you with that?
I have a mentor, Mr Donald McNaughton and I have an agent in New York and an agent in Jamaica. Everything is working out well. As I said I am working on the mental part of everything which is the most important thing. I'm getting through that stage now. I'm so focussed right now; anything happening right now, it has to be something positive.
Ok, because you know the news reports have spoken about players not receptive to your pranks and such the like. What can they expect on this upcoming tour?
Oh, it can't be a one way street you know. It was not always Marlon Samuels to set off any jokes or anything. Being in any forum with a lot of guys, you will always have people running jokes and stuff like that, but you know now from your experience who can take this and who cannot take that, so you just have to know what to say to people at certain times.
How much are you responsible for how your career has gone?
I think a lot of things have been said about me which as I said before I am not that kind of person. Is just that people have portrayed me and put me out there in a different light, which was very unfortunate.
Back then you couldn't come out and say things because you're just starting your career, so whatsoever people put out there on you, you have to take it and the public just buys it, because Marlon Samuels cannot come forward and speak up.
Why couldn't you have come out and spoken up?
Well when you grow up into cricket you know that it's better to keep your mouth shut, but when you really look deep down inside of it, it is unfair for people to say things about you and you can just take it. But now I can come out and explain myself and tell the world that I am not that kind of person and I'm a better person and all my intention right now is just to show the world that I'm a better person. I am positive now. I can come out and defend myself in a positive way.
What's the biggest misconception that you think the public has of you, which you know in your heart is not so?
They said that I don't smile a lot and if you don't smile a lot you know it doesn't mean that you're arrogant or you're not friendly or you're not a people person. It means that's just the way you grow. I'm still very polite; I just don't smile a lot. I can't just pretend, or to change my style right now; every time you see somebody you're like smiling but I will still greet you in a very good way, but is just that people have been misled.
So they figure that you're not friendly, you think you're a star, you think you're too good to say hello.
Yes, definitely. Starting my career, I was like this. Nothing changed and all the players that play with me from then until now say that Marlon Samuels is the same and nothing gets to me.
You enjoy a good relationship, in fact a very good relationship with your Jamaican team mates.
I enjoy a very good relationship with everybody, it's just that when people looking for things, they look and try to find everything. They try to spoil it and say I'm not friends with such and such, which is unfair. To see us together ? you've been around the team ? and to see us together you will see something totally different.
Yes, that's true. What impact did your meeting with Bennett King earlier this year have on how you then proceeded?
He said he is definitely looking for me in my World Cup squad so it still give me a lot of confidence to continue to move on and stay strong and stay positive, so I use that to motivate me. While still not being selected, I was still there. If I have a Sunday cricket to play, I am going out there conditioning my mind to score a hundred and try to get five wickets, so nothing really stopped my flow at that time. It was just for me to continue to move forward as much as possible.
Cricket wise, what specific goals do you have for the Australian tour?
Well I don't really like to tell my goals you know, but I can tell you right now. I am going down there?..to me, history is going to repeat itself. Right now I'm thinking about all the mistakes that I made, especially reaching 60 and what I did with that situation, thinking about it now, that if I'm in that situation again, it would be a lot more different because I have more experience, more first class games before me and I'm a bit more positive, so everything will be different.
So my goal set now is different from my first time going down there. If given the opportunity, I'm looking for 400 runs and how am I going to score the 400 runs.
Ok. Jamaica had a sports psychologist attached to the team for the Carib Cup. Did you benefit from that?
To be honest, I didn't get the chance to speak to her, because when I came back, I came back into four games so I was a bit busy when I came back, especially as I was scoring some runs.
A lot of runs.
Yes. So I didn't get the chance to really speak with her.
Your average is currently 29.13. Ultimately where would you like it to be?
Oh, by the end of this year, I'm looking a 50 average.
Jesus! That's very ambitious!
Yes, that's a goal. When you set out a goal, you have to aim high.
And you know that means you have to have a lot of not outs.
Definitely because more than likely the position that I'm batting in, I should have a better average because I'm batting at number six. Definitely I will be batting with the tail at some point so is just for me to try and shield them as much as possible and try to bring off the game, whatever is the situation, and try to be not out as much as possible and to continue to score my runs.
Well I think everybody in the Caribbean is going to be glued to their television sets even though it will be late at night because a lot of people, even though a lot of negative stuff is said, a lot of people really want you to do well. Do you feel that as you travel around the region?
A lot of people never liked Martin Luther King and Malcolm X you know, but they still continue to do themselves justice and they have been through a lot and still come out on top. So I see myself as a hero, as somebody very positive, knowing that I've been through so many things in my lifetime and I'm just 24 and yet still I am still around.
I think about them a lot of times, and I just use them to make me stronger. It has been tough but I surpass that right now with just a positive frame of mind.