André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
West Indies star Marlon Samuels admitted that cricket has not always presented a viable opportunity for youngsters in the region, but believes the Caribbean team's recent title triumph at the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka will raise the appeal of the sport around the West Indies.
Samuels, who played a starring role in the West Indies' inspiring 36-run victory over the host in the final, noted that the region's youngsters have had precious little to look forward to where cricket is concerned in recent years, but argued that the emergence of the Twenty20 format and the West Indies triumph will open more doors in the coming years.
"I think kids lost a lot of interest in the game because there wasn't enough hope," Samuels told The Gleaner in a one-on-one interview recently. "They had lost all hope, the West Indies team wasn't doing too well. When Australia is on top of the world and money is being pumped into the game, people there want to play."
Samuels went on to compare the earning potential for domestic cricketers across the region to those in other countries.
'If you don't play for the senior team in Australia, you can play first-class cricket and still live a good life, so they have a better structure, which we don't have here.
"In the West Indies, you are taking a chance with your life coming out of high school and saying that you are going to play cricket. There are no guarantees and if you look at the countless players who come in for one game and get thrown out, it's amazing. I have seen more than 50 players come and go; some may come on a one tour, fail and never make it back, while others play two games and that's it," Samuels added.
However, the 31-year-old is expecting a boom in interest around the Caribbean, in the wake of the team's recent collective and individual successes.
"That's why I play so hard because I know that having a world title will bring back a lot of things. My role is to take it as serious as possible and work as hard as possible so that I can inspire others to the game and to reach to my level because cricket has its own superstars as well," said Samuels.
"Winning this World Cup is major because you can feel the cricket fever again. Wherever you go, people want to speak to you, it's on everybody's lips again and it's like the Olympics all over again, so it's clear that it means a lot to everyone again," Samuels reasoned.
"Also, there are more opportunities for young cricketers because you will have more West Indian cricketers playing, especially in the Twenty20 tournaments all over. There are about seven or eight of us playing all over, so I hope that this will open even more doors for others," he added.
Samuels is one of several West Indies cricketers who have been drafted into the most prestigious and lucrative Twenty20 competitions around the world such as the Indian Premier League and the Big Bash in Australia.
He is currently on tour with the West Indies team, which begun the first of two Tests against Bangla-desh on Tuesday (last night Jamaica time).