In an age where cricketers, and sportsmen in general, are lambasted for being boring, lacking character, and being entirely mundane in interviews, just why are people criticising West Indies cricketer Marlon Samuels?
After slapping a long-hop from West Indies leggie Devendra Bishoo straight into the hands of Jermaine Blackwood on the mid-wicket boundary, Ben Stokes trudged off towards the pavilion, head bowed, brow furrowed. As he made his way across the pitch, he was greeted with the sight of Samuels standing to attention, full salute, and stood in resolute silence. Once Samuels had dramatically dropped the salute, Stokes unleashed a few words towards Samuels, and then continued on his way off the pitch.
While it is perhaps the most obvious send off I’ve ever seen from someone who wasn’t actually the wicket-taker, why are people actually annoyed at Samuels? Sure, if I was Ben Stokes, I probably would have had a few choice words for Samuels too, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hilarious harmless entertainment.
The battle between Stokes and Samuels has been a bright spot in this series thus far, and cricket is much richer for having a mix of characters play the game. For every insular, hard thinking, polite Jonathan Trott or Shivnarine Chanderpaul there needs to be a short-tempered, tetchy, and combustible Stokes or Samuels.
I have seen people regard what Samuels did as unsporting. This is mostly from English fans; I wonder whether they may have seen it differently if it was an Englishman performing the salute. While is obviously childish, and aimed at provoking a response from Stokes, there really is nothing harmful in what Samuels did. He didn’t say a word, he didn’t make an offensive gesture, and he didn’t even Point Stokes in the direction of the pavilion. It was just simply done to provoke a response.
And surely this match is now more fascinating as a result. Who’s not looking forward to Cook turning to Stokes as soon as Samuels arrives at the crease in the second innings? I wonder if Stokes dismissed him, whether he will be able to keep his tongue in check as well as Samuels? But who cares? As long as they’re not being offensive, then crack on. It’s all part of the fun, wouldn’t it be boring if everybody was the same?
One more thing, if anybody mentions the ‘sprit of cricket’, then I’m afraid I’m going to have to go full Stokes, and I’ll not be responsible for the rudeness of my response. The ‘spirit of cricket’ does not exist, certainly not at Test level anyway, and to be honest in my own experience in league cricket, it’s hardly plentiful there either.
So let’s sit back and watch as two talented and aggressive cricketers trade blows with bat and ball, and try to rile each other on the pitch. Is it not what cricket is all about? A contest between two people, busting their gut to try and get one over on the guy at the other end.