So, where does Samuels fit now?
Marlon Samuels displays the kind of wristy elegance that makes him appear very much a sub-continental player. He has sublime touch and even when he doesn't seem to hit the ball hard, it travels a long way because of power from sweet timing.
Samuels showed that grace and timing when he toured India some months back and won a lot of admirers. So for the West Indies it was a kind of a setback when he picked up an injury and was forced to pull out of the squad for the World Cup.
But Samuels recuperated from that blow in double quick time and the ICC Technical Committee cleared him to join the rest of his teammates in Cape Town, which he did on Sunday night.
However, things seem to have changed in a very short span of time. Samuels would have been a certainty in the Windies playing XI before the start of the opening game against the South Africans. But after the incredible match on Sunday night, skipper Carl Hooper would really be quite hardpressed to find a place for the talented Samuels in their next match against New Zealand at Port Elizabeth on Thursday.
Hooper's predicament is really quite simple --- whom would Samuels replace from the side that beat the hosts and Cup favourites in that pulsating encounter?
A fit Samuels was expected to replace Ricardo Powell in the West Indies starting line-up but the sinewy Powell thundered so violently with the bat at the Newlands that it would be nothing short of criminal to even contemplate dropping Powell.
Ramnaresh Sarwan was not too far behind and matched Powell stroke for stroke in the run blitz in the last 10 overs. So Samuels can't replace Sarwan either. Chris Gayle came a cropper with the bat but removed Shaun Pollock and Mark Boucher in a telling spell. So even Gayle had his part to play in the Windies victory.
The only player who could be replaced in the next match is Wavell Hinds but Hooper will be loath to tinker with a side that soaked up all the pressure of a vociferously one-sided crowd and came up trumps.
So even after being cleared to rejoin his team, Samuels is likely to remain on the sidelines at Port Elizabeth.
All this, in a way, could be described as an embarrassment of riches for the West Indies and if their form in the Cup opener is anything to go by, they are truly on the course to top Group-B --- leave alone qualify for the Super Six.
With Brian Lara quite close to his vintage best --- and given his penchant for shining on the big stage --- the portents are all very propitious for the Windies to go most of the way to the top. So is it time for a Windies resurgence?
As for the South Africans, it was more proof that the tag of chokers given to them is not misplaced.
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