Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Don't blame Samuels

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Marlon Samuels - File

Tony Becca, Contributor

The West Indies went down to South Africa 2-0 earlier this week and, without a doubt, as the scoreboard showed, that scoreline was a true reflection of the skills of both teams.

On top of that, the West Indies are ranked at number eight and South Africa at number one.

The West Indies have lost 47 and won only one Test match against the good teams in the last 14 years, and South Africa have won 109 and lost 43 against all teams since their return to Test cricket in 1992. South Africa have also defeated the West Indies 18 times and lost only three times in 28 contests between the two teams.

While the West Indies, this time around, also boasted only two world-class players in batsmen Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels, South Africa paraded batsmen Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, as well as bowlers Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, plus many promising players, both batsmen and bowlers.

It is, therefore, strange to see so many people blaming Samuels for the collapse in the second innings in Cape Town, which led to the West Indies' defeat in the third and final Test match.

Samuels, the team's leading batsman throughout the series, followed his innings of 101 in the second Test in Port Elizabeth with a delightful innings in the second innings of the third Test before it all went wrong.

With Chanderpaul joining him at 95 for three and the West Indies a mere three runs in front of South Africa in their second innings, Samuels was going well. He was selecting his shots nicely before he started to attack.

Suddenly, and out of the blue, everything crashed.

With his score on 74, the total on 182 for three, and Chanderpaul supporting well, Samuels hit a catch to long-on, and with Dean Elgar running way to his left, he got out as the West Indies dived to 215, with seven wickets falling for 33 runs in 15 overs.

Before the dismissal of Samuels, the pundits were contemplating a situation in which he got a century, Chanderpaul got a good score, and the West Indies leaving South Africa around 230 to win the match.

The pundits figured that on a pitch which had started to assist spin, on a pitch on which the ball was bouncing, and on a pitch on which off-spinner Simon Harmer was bowling well, such a target would have been testing for South Africa if not beyond their reach.

Without a doubt, the Samuels' dismissal led to South Africa's easy victory. Is it, however, his fault, and can the blame be laid at his feet?

I was not there, but I say no. And I say no, although a good Test match batsman should be able to bat to suit the condition and the situation and play for his team at all times, and even though Samuels has a tendency to be careless or thoughtless.

BEST JUDGE

I say no mainly because he was the batsman in the middle, because he was the best judge of the situation, and because one shot cannot and did not lose the Test match.

Samuels probably figured that the pitch and the South African bowlers were such that the batsmen to come would have been sitting ducks, Harmer was the biggest threat, and if he could hit him out of the attack that would serve the West Indies well.

On top of that, Samuels was on 74, he was batting beautifully, he had already chipped and hit Harmer over long-on for two sixes while taking 12 and 14 runs in two overs from him, and the fans, including West Indians at home, like myself, were cheering his audacious stroke play.

NOTHING UNUSUAL

Samuels may have been wrong in his assessment of the situation, but that kind of batting was nothing unusual, at least not for him. He had done it before. It's in his nature, and when all is said and done, the West Indies is not a one-man team, or it should not be.

Batsmen react differently to different situations. To some batsmen, playing cautiously or defensively is their way of fighting to save a match; to others, their method is to attack.

A defensive Samuels is, generally, far from convincing. An attacking Samuels is powerful and glorious.

I believe that had Samuels' hit that delivery over the boundary for six, and had he hit a few more, the cheers would still be ringing in his ears.

Without a doubt, the Samuels' dismissal contributed to South Africa's easy victory. I do not, however, believe that it was the cause of defeat, not after the West Indies lost seven wickets for 39 and seven for 40 at Centurion Park, not after they lost seven for 44 in Port Elizabeth, and not after they lost seven for 33 in Cape Town, including six for 13 in 5.4 overs.

Samuels may have missed an opportunity to be a hero in Cape Town, but he certainly does not deserve the wrath of his colleagues and commentators because the West Indies lost the Test match.

From captain Denesh Ramdin came: "Not really harsh words, but for one of our senior batters to play a shot like that when he was in, it was an uncalled for shot."

From coach Stuart Williams, it was: "It was an awful shot", and from commentators came such adjectives as, 'arrogant', 'brainless', and 'inexcusable'.

Some players, some batsmen, and some commentators do forget their days in the sun, and the way they were dismissed, some of the times, especially when the pressure was on.