“You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.”
The Marlon that said these now famous lines wasn’t the West Indian cricketer who singlehandedly won the Caribbean their first ICC Trophy since the 1970s. No, it was a more celebrated Marlon, Brando that is.
As Terry Malloy in the Oscar-winning ‘On the Waterfront’, Brando captured the life, struggles and eventual victory of a prizefighter back in the days when boxing bouts were routinely rigged by the high and the mighty a cloud of suspicion hangs over modern day cricket.
Marlon Samuels is no stranger to controversy, from serving match-fixing bans for relaying information to bookies, to an off-spin action that is constantly under the scanner. In 2011, when he made his return to the international scene, one can almost hear this Marlon utter the famous words of that other Marlon.
Mark of respect
Whatever he said, there was a change in the man. Almost 13 years ago, at the absolute nadir of West Indies cricket, Samuels sprung into the limelight as a 19-year-old rookie.
Steve Waugh was so impressed with his languid, classy batting and his fighting spirit he gave him his famed red handkerchief. A mark of respect, Samuels still carries that little piece of cloth for sentimental value.
These days, the 31-year-old is a relaxed man. Nothing hurries him. Well, almost nothing. During this interaction he asks when Wisden would give him the trophy for being picked by the cricket bible as one of the five cricketers of the year in 2012.
It was in England 12 months back that Samuels finally did justice to his unquestionable talent. Against the hosts in testing conditions, Samuels struck 386 runs in 5 innings, with one game-defying century.
A couple of months later, he played the innings of his life. In the World T20 final in Colombo, West Indies were struggling at 14-2 after six overs, with Chris Gayle in the pavilion.
After 10 overs they were 32-2. In the 10 overs that followed, Samuels turned the game on its head.
He did so by targeting Sri Lanka’s best bowler — Lasith Malinga. His 56-ball 78 included 6 towering sixes, five of them were hit off Malinga. He’d finally learnt to channel that inner rage, and somebody (read bowlers) was going to pay.
Speaking on his transformation, Samuels said, “For the last two years, being out and coming back and playing has created a lot of responsibility around me outside of cricket. So going out there and playing the role that I’m playing right now I find it much easier because off the field I have greater responsibility.”
At the heart of this transformation have been the newest additions to the Samuels household – son Dimitri and daughter Djourna. During his time serving the ban, he also got rid of dodgy friends and replaced them with the best friends a man can ask for – dogs. Samson the Labrador, Simba the Akita, and Sheba the Pitbull are among his best mates.
Speaking on his new family and the pressure associated with that, he said, “Family, kids, dogs — you have to feed them; they can’t feed themselves, I’m taking care of my entire family. I can’t afford to fail because I’m basically the breadwinner,” he said.
Samuels is also among a bunch of Caribbean cricketers who travel round the world playing domestic T20 leagues. With the Caribbean Premier League launching soon after the Champions Trophy, he has a little request for the BCCI and Indian cricketers.
“Yes it’s (CPL) something to cheer about; only it would be more wonderful if the Indian players could come and take part in our tournament as well. India and the West Indies are like one family because in the Caribbean we live among a lot of Indians. It’d be better if the Indians could come and take part and give it the boost we’re looking for.”