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World T20: Feet-up Marlon Samuels thrives on on-field challenges

In front of an international media post the ICC World T20 final, man of the match Marlon Samuels, with his pads on, put his feet up on a table and took questions, the entire drama lasting about six-and-a-half minutes.

You may call it disrespect shown by a senior international cricketer. You may even call it immaturity from a person who has not really justified his full potential despite playing international cricket for a decade and a half. Some may even find nothing wrong with it as he has just scored a match-winning career-best 85 not out and guided West Indies to their second ICC World T20 title.

Samuels, perhaps, had a point to prove by putting his feet up. He may have felt like conquering the world – and indeed it was a world event final – as he and his team-mates were playing in the competition with an ‘us versus them’ feeling. There has been a lot of talk about many showing disrespect to the West Indies players and also not giving them a chance in a format that they are vastly experienced and successful.

The 35-year-old Jamaican may come across as a man with no expression on his face. Even amidst mounting tension at the Eden Gardens on Sunday night against a never-say-die England, Samuels kept his calm to see the West Indies through in the company of the four-sixes man, Carlos Brathwaite.

But behind the expressionless face was a variety of emotions, largely built from anger from what has been said against him by opposition players and TV experts. Samuels has been having an on-field feud with England all-rounder Ben Stokes for quite some time. Samuels sent off Stokes with a salute during a Test in Grenada last April after the Durham cricketer badmouthed the Jamaican in the latter’s seventh Test century.

And, the occasion got the better of both on Sunday. Stokes sledged Samuels after West Indies were reduced to 11/3 and again after the batsman was given out first caught behind on 27 only to be later given not out as the ball had bounced into Jos Buttler’s gloves.

It was Samuels’s turn when Brathwaite sent those four sixes from Stokes into orbit and had to be restrained by his support staff including bowling coach Curtly Ambrose before things went out of order in his celebration. For all his act, Samuels was subsequently fined 30 per cent of his match fee by the ICC for breaching Level 1 of the ICC Code of Conduct by “using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting during an International Match”.

With his feet still on the table, Samuels said about the battle with Stokes that fired him up: “Well, he doesn’t learn. They keep telling him whenever he plays against me, do not speak to me because I’m going to perform. (I) didn’t even face a ball and he had so much to say to me today (Sunday). So I know I had to be right there at the end, again.

“Yes, that’s what I thrive on, that’s why I’m still around for so long, despite so many ups and downs. 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. Every day I come out to play this game specifically with them in mind, to be honest.”

Samuels has read Stokes’s mind perfectly over a period of time that he knew what exactly the Englishman would be sending down in the last over to Brathwaite. “I told Brathwaite Stokes is a nervous lad, you know. What I tell Brathwaite is to hold his pose, he is going to bowl a couple of full-tosses, as always, and it worked in our favour. Brathwaite played a brilliant knock at the end there to give me a little breather at the other end.”

Samuels also directed his anger at legendary Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne. The two have also had a run-in in the past in the Big Bash League. Warne also criticised Samuels for his non-performance in Thursday’s semifinal against India.

“I said it to a couple of my teammates, I played a Test series in Australia and everything, Shane Warne has a problem with me, I don’t know what. I’ve never disrespected him, it seems as if he has a lot inside him that he needs to come out. I don’t appreciate the way that he continues to talk about me, and the things he keeps doing. I don’t know, maybe it is because my face is real and his face is not,” Samuels, who dedicated the man-of-the-match trophy to the Australian, said.

Asked if Warne’s comments provoked him, Samuels said: “(There’s been) a lot of negative stuff, not just in the last couple of weeks but over the years. But we want to improve in Test cricket and in one-day version, but we have been a force to reckon with in the T20 version, but yet still, before we enter any tournament or any game, they still talking a lot of negative stuff. And now, a lot of people should be honest with themselves and give credit where credit is due. We are a wonderful team, we play with passion and with love, not for ourselves but for the Caribbean people. Cricket means the entire world to them, just as cricket is in India, it is a religion.”

Samuels’s manner of doing the presser, with his feet up, was in stark contrast to what he says he is in life. “I started a business, Playzone, because I am a family man and whatever business I am getting into, it has to be for family. My kids can enjoy, other people’s kids can play and hopefully many more people can come and enjoy,” he said.

Perhaps, the kids will do well to learn the good things from Samuels’s batting and the manner in which he stays calm and guides his team home rather than his on-field and post-match antics.

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