World T20 final: Stirred Marlon Samuels simmers, then boils

04-04-2016
TOI

Right from the start, Marlon Samuels looked very little like, well, Marlon Samuels. The man who heroically produced that match-winning innings in the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 final had since faded, and in his place was a fidgety batsman whose skill against spin was on the wane.
Following a breezy 37 in West Indies’ opening game, he had struggled to dominate with scores of three versus Sri Lanka, 44 against South Africa, five against Afghanistan in Nagpur and eight in the semi-final with India. That 44 came on a slow Nagpur surface after West Indies had lost two early wickets, and it anchored the chase and in the end squeezed them over the line with three wickets and two deliveries in hand. But it wasn’t pretty, and something about Samuels’ demeanour added to the impression of a man battling himself and the conditions.
In his second major final, Samuels looked from the nonstriker’s end as Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles fell to Joe Root’s innocuous offspin in the second over of West Indies’ chase. When on strike, he coolly whipped his second ball past midwicket for four. For the next three overs he tapped singles and defended solidly. There were no wafts or prods of shuffles to leg that brought with them hard-handed chops. Samuels looked at ease despite the lack of boundaries in the first five overs.
Then he hit three fours in the sixth over bowled by Chris Jordan. A Caribbean pull with a roll of the wrists, a top edge over Jos Buttler and a whiplash drive past the cover fielders. Samuels was purring, and things were stirring.
Then came the slice of luck often needed when heroic innings are being fashioned. On 27, Samuels nicked Liam Plunkett and was given out caught behind. He had neared the boundary line when he stopped and saw that a replay of the catch had been requested. Soon the TV flashed proof that the ball had died just before Buttler’s glove. The crowd roared. Samuels, without a reaction, loped back to his place on the pitch.
That one shot of rashness was all Samuels would play thereon. For the next 45 deliveries, he was a man in charge. He kept his nerve, blocked out the good balls and just when you started to think he was slowing down, he teed off. Plunkett was smeared for a four and two sixes in the 15th over, then Jordan biffed right back down the ground ferociously in the 17th and 18th. He missed the last ball of the penultimate over to leave Carlos Braithwate to face the last over from which 19 runs were needed, and thanks to the allrounder’s sublime assault on Ben Stokes, Samuels did not need to take strike again.The Man-of-the-Match award went to him for that fine unbeaten 85 from 66 balls. For the second time in his career, Samuels, now 35, had won the award.
This time around there was added incentive to succeed, he revealed while receiving the award. "I wake up this morning with one thing on my mind. Shane Warne has been talking continuously and all I have to say without talking is this is for Shane Warne. I answer with my bat and don’t answer with the mic," said Samuels in reference to comments by made by Warne after his dismissal in the semi-final against India.Not long after that statement, Samuels was fined 30% of his match fee for his abusive and offensive language towards Stokes. He didn’t mind one bit, for he had done what he set out to - win West Indies the final. "I’ve turned my life around in the last five years, dedicating every day that I wake up every day and giving thanks to god and to my kids. This is what I am doing for them. Everyday I come out to play this game specifically with them in mind, to be honest," said Samuels.
If he never plays another T20I, Samuels can live in peace with the satisfaction of having played a leading role in West Indies’ two world title since 1979. That is more than many finer batsman from the Caribbean can claim to have done.

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