The 2012 West Indian cricket season concluded with their relatively successful tour of Bangladesh. While the Dhaka Bangladesh-West Indies T20 game that ended the tour seemed odd for the way the home team tried (and failed) to chase down a mammoth Samuels-powered score of 197, it also brought down the final chapter on the most important cricket season for T20 cricket.
With IPL, big bashes, SLPLs and BPLs played all across the globe and T20 World Cups held every 2 years- there has never been such a significant stride in this format, till now, thanks to the crowning of the new World T20 Champions. For once, in this format, a team looks like it has belonged to the stage- a team that always depended on a prince rather than a King to define their legacy.
Marlon Samuels is that prince. And as dominant as Gayle has been in T20 cricket, it is Samuels that has brought his country back from the brink- while fighting his own demons. Early in 2012, he was riled for his comeback against the Australian touring team, where his slow trudging ODI innings brought him a lot of flack. Even in IPL, Samuels has been used predominantly as a bowling all-rounder with an action still under scrutiny.
After a season that signaled the second coming of an eager young West Indian team to the forefront of limited overs cricket in an era when there is no real team domination, the Bangladesh-West Indies ODI series ended as somewhat a disappointment and an anti-climax for most hopeful fans.
After losing 3-2 in the ODI series to a home-strong Bangladeshi team, after managing to win the Test Series 2-0, one thing was clear: Marlon Samuels, and not Chris Gayle, had reinvented himself in 2012. And in the process, he had reinvigorated West Indian cricket for a moment. The single T20 between Bangladesh and West Indies played at Dhaka was yet another defining moment for a team that had managed to find a way to ground their fans yet again after a successful 2012. It bore familiar signs to their greatest victory in the last decade- a single T20 innings played by Marlon Samuels in the T20 World Championship back in October, rated as the gutsiest and most skilful such innings in the short history of T20 cricket.
How they take this moment and convert it into a week, a month or an era- will be upto the leaders and shakers of the Caribbean. The Bangladesh-West Indies tour signaled two things: Whenever Samuels hit his stride, there was no stopping his side. When he failed, it resulted in 3 losses. He is yet to come to terms with the pacing of an ODI innings, but many thought that he was more suited to these versions of the game before IPL 2012.
His T20 Dhaka innings of 95 included 9 sixes, an international T20 record, and it was timely because Gayle had looked disinterested and hungover from being crowned Kings of the World just a fortnight ago. But Samuels has marched on, treating the Bangladesh tour as a stepping stone for something greater- his hunger for big unbeaten innings demonstrated by his 3 centuries on tour.
As expected, though, despite Gayle’s annihilation in IPL 2012, the West Indies Cricket team has been responsible for two of the best T20 innings played in 2012- one for its significance, grit and destruction of Malinga on the world stage, and the second for being a sequel of the first in order to remind people that the term ‘one-off’ cannot be used anymore in context of West Indian cricket- like their Champions Trophy win back in 2004.