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Why not Samuels and Jacobs ?

16 February 2001


Could Marlon Samuels and Ridley Jacobs be considered as joint West Indies "Men of the Tour," during the recently concluded Australia 2000-01 cricket series ?

Why not?

Brian Lara may have been named as "Player of the Series" for the Carlton limited-overs tournament - even though his average of 46.50 was bettered by seven Australians - but Samuels proved more effective to his team's cause overall. His average of 28.20 was second to Lara among the West Indians, and 16th highest in the competition; his total of 282 was also second to Lara (372), was seventh overall, and contained scores of 57 and 68 against Australia and Zimbabwe, in the preliminary round, and 63 against Australia in the second final. The only thing Samuels may have lacked was a spectacular century - like Lara's 116 not out against Australia in Sydney.

But Samuels made up for this with the ball. His off-breaks proved too much for opposing batsmen at times and he finished the competition with 14 wickets at an average of 27.78 - second among West Indians to Cameron Cuffy's 25.66, ninth in the Carlton Series - and had best figures of 3 for 25. Let us not forget that Samuels only turned 20 on January 5, so what we have is the makings of a potentially great one-day all-rounder.

As for Jacobs, a runs total of 176 (joint fourth among West Indians) at an average of 19.55, with a highest score of 59 in the second final, may just sound okay. But ally this with the fact that the wicket keeper did his "day job" superbly with 14 dismissals (all-catches), just three behind Australia's Adam Gilchrist, and the measure of his overall contribution is magnified.

And, what about the test series, where he was simply magnificent behind the stumps? Jacobs finished the tests with 21 dismissals, comprising 20 catches (including a record-equalling seven in Australia's first innings of the fourth test in Melbourne) and one stumping. He was also on song with the bat and achieved a highest score of 96 not out (out of an innings total of 196) in the second test. He also managed 42 in the fourth test and 62 in the final match. In the end, Jacobs finished fifth in the West Indies batting averages with 32.00; but, more significantly, his runs total of 288 was second only to Lara's 321. Jacobs also managed to make his mark away from the test arena, scoring 131 against Australia 'A' at Hobart. Upon review, the Antiguan's exploits in Australia confirmed his status as the most reliable West Indies wicket keeper since Jeff Dujon. As he has done since his long overdue debut in South Africa, two seasons ago, he came in at number seven to restore some respectability to a West Indies innings headed for utter disaster - often partnered with just the tail enders.

Samuel's test experiences have to be viewed within the context of him being called to Australia in mid-tour as an emergency replacement for the injured Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Still a teenager at the time, and with only one Busta Cup game for Jamaica under his belt, Samuels was immediately thrown into the tour match against Australia 'A,' before making his test debut in Adelaide. He scored 35 in his first innings, while demonstrating the unflustered confidence that was to be his trademark throughout the tour. Samuels then astounded observers with his maturity in the fourth test, when he scored 60 not out in the first innings and shared in a stand of 75 with Jacobs that helped the West Indies avoid the follow-on by one run. Later, he was the last man out on 46 as his team crashed to a 352 run defeat. Samuels eventually finished with 172 runs after six innings; he was the fifth highest run-getter for the West Indies and his average of 34.40 was third overall. He was simply the coolest batsman on the tour, was never fazed by the opposition - as his young comrade Ramnaresh Sarwan was - and always looked sound at the crease.

So, while the status of most of their team mates should come up for review, Jacobs and Samuels did all that they could to ensure that they will be the front runners for the upcoming series against South Africa. For Jacobs, 33, it will be the chance for him to continue making up for the time that was lost while the West Indies selectors continuously shuffled around David Williams, Junior Murray and Courtney Browne, without success.

Samuels, meanwhile, represents something else, something that even  Australia captain Steve Waugh recognized: the need for this region's selectors to finally give younger players more chances on a regular basis and, thus, head in a direction that is more likely to help revitalize West Indies cricket than anywhere else.