Samuels recalls memorable stand
HAMILTON, BERMUDA - Philo Wallace who shared an unbroken opening stand of 207 with Robert Samuels against a Somerset Select in 1993 as the West Indies A team won by ten wickets.
His memory of events have dimmed over two decades, but those who watched Robert Samuels share in a thrilling unbroken double century opening stand with Philo Wallace as the West Indies A team hammered a Somerset Cup Match Select by 10 wickets won’t forget it.
On the same ground where his Melbourne Cricket Club team have been playing their tour matches, Samuels, an elegant, left-handed bat, needed a copy of The Royal Gazette match report to refresh his memory of the June day 20 years ago this year that he and Wallace chased down the Somerset total of 205 in only 28.5 overs to record an impressive 10-wicket victory. Samuels, the older brother of West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels, did go on to represent the West Indies, albeit briefly, as did Wallace and most of the other players on that tour, including a then 18-year-old Shivnarine Chanderpaul who is still playing Test cricket today.
Samuels dominated that stand with Wallace, stroking 107 not out from 11 fours and eight sixes off 90 balls while Wallace hit 83 in a supporting role that contained 10 fours and four sixes from 96 balls.
“No, I’m not remembering the innings but what I can tell you about the tour at the time was that I was 22-years-old and with the A team tours they were looking at potential players to play for the West Indies so they would select you to go on A team tours,” said Samuels as he sat in familiar surroundings at Somerset Cricket Club on the weekend.
“I was selected and it was a good tour and when I look back and remember the names of the players on that tour it was a strong team. But at that stage Bermuda cricket was exceptionally strong too, I remember some fantastic players were out playing and we were challenged in all the games.
“If I’m to compare the team I’m seeing now with the team then, I would say Bermuda had stronger players than I’m seeing today. I don’t know why but maybe you can tell me why. Those tours were tours that made people and some of the names on that tour went on to play Test cricket.
“It was about four years after that that I played for the West Indies, in 1996. I played six Test matches, with an average of 37 and I scored one century and one half century. In my last Test match I made 76 and 35 not out and didn’t play again.”
The West Indies team had slipped from their top World ranking around that period as their established stars began retiring, including Desmond Haynes, who formed with Gordon Greenidge one of the best opening partnerships in Test cricket history. And even though both Samuels and Wallace did open the batting for the West Indies, they never played together in the same team. Samuels, who scored his century (125) against New Zealand in Antigua in only his second Test and 76 and 35 not out on a difficult Perth wicket, played his six Tests and eight ODIs between 1996-97 before Wallace came in to play seven Tests between 1997 and ‘99.
“I played in New Zealand with Sherwin Campbell and when we went to Australia, Campbell was my partner again,” Samuels recalled. “Then there was Adrian Griffith as the third opener, a left-hander from Barbados. I never played Test cricket with Philo, he got his chance after.”
It was also during that 1993 tour of Bermuda that Ridley Jacobs, a wicketkeeper-batsman from Antigua, smashed 152 not out from 108 balls in a total of 357 against an Under 25 Select at Devonshire Rec that contained the likes of Clay Smith, Dwayne Leverock, Lionel Cann, Kwame Tucker, Jason Lewis, Garry Williams, Del Hollis and captain Janeiro Tucker who won the toss and invited West Indies A to bat first. The Under 25s could only manage 155 in reply.
That West Indies A team was captained by Roland Holder of Barbados and also included the likes of Stuart Williams, Courtney Browne, Nehemiah Perry and fast bowlers Franklyn Rose, Cameron Cuffy, Sammy Skeete and Eugene Antoine who all went on to represent the West Indies for various lengths of times.
“When I look back and see the names of the players it was a quality team that came down here,” said the Melbourne coach. “You had some seriously outstanding players, (Ricky) Hill was one, the (Somerset) captain (Albert Steede). You had some fantastic players, not only on that tour but I remember Bermuda coming to Jamaica to play in our regional tournament and the Bermuda team was another strong team.
Hill, as he did against the touring Australians two years earlier (Merv Hughes in particular), was harsh on the West Indies pacemen Rose, Skeete and Davis as he scored a dashing 52 for the Somerset Select off 63 balls, smashing nine fours and two sixes as all but four of his runs came in boundaries.
“Clay Smith was another fantastic player, he came to Jamaica and did wonders. At that time Bermuda’s cricket was very strong,” said Samuels who thinks that West Indies cricket is starting to climb again after many years of decline.
They won the World T20 title last year, but it is Test cricket against the stronger countries that provides the real gauge.
“I have seen improvement in the team and although we’re playing against teams in the lower half of the set-up I think there is an improvement,” said the former opener.
“But what we need to start doing now is beating the teams that are above us. We had Australia in the Caribbean and I felt that Australia should have been beaten by the West Indies. There is a special time in a game that a team needs to seize the opportunity and every time that came up West Indies dropped the ball as they say.
“When we start beating teams above us I can give you a better reading as to where we are.”
Samuels was only 32 when he stopped playing cricket completely in 2003. Now there is another Samuels flying the family flag in world cricket. “I came under some pressure from the selectors and was only 32 and wasn’t ready to stop,” he stated.
“Now my brother is carrying the torch, last season he had a fantastic season so I’m happy for that. The only regret is he didn’t do this five or seven years ago, but everything in its time.”
Neither is Samuels surprised to see his former teammate Chanderpaul still performing at the highest level. He made his Test debut nine months after that West Indies A tour to Bermuda, in March 2004 against England in Guyana.
“Not surprised, the type of batsman that Shiv Chanderpaul is the older he gets the wiser he would have gotten,” said Samuels.
“He was not the slam-bam, over-the-top type of batsman, he’s an accumulator of runs and those type of batsmen tend to last longer in cricket. The slam-bam type of batsman, usually when their reflexes go their technique goes. But his technique was always a good one and that is why he has lasted this long.
”The West Indies team is improving and if I’m to worry I’m worried about finding a replacement for Chris Gayle, a replacement for Shivnarine Chanderpaul, a replacement for Marlon Samuels and that is what I’m not seeing as yet. Hopefully in a year or two we will see people coming through. The fast bowlers are getting smaller instead of bigger.”
And he has no doubts that Test cricket will survive even though the Twenty20 format is more appealing to the spectators.
“Test cricket will always be played, Twenty20 is the spectators’ sport, to entertain the spectator who comes in for three hours to be entertained and go home. Test cricket is the cricket when you want to test people. The 50 overs is a good tester too, with high and lows.”