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Is Samuels The Sportsman Of The Year?

Hubert Lawrence, Contributor

Like most people, I hadn't given a thought to any one other than Usain Bolt being Jamaica's 2012 Sportsman of the Year. Even when the Honourable Mike Fennell said it was going to be hard to choose the winner, I didn't give that thought even a minute. When a man wins the Olympic sprint double with times of 9.63 and 19.32 seconds, there's hardly anything that can compare to that.

Lest we forget, 9.63 is merely the second-fastest time in 100-metre history and the 19.32 isn't loose change either. Only Bolt, Yohan Blake and Michael Johnson have ever run 200 metres faster.

For good measure, the tall man from Trelawny ran four other races under 9.9 and three others under 19.7. He only lost twice, to Blake at the Nationals, and avenged those losses at the best possible time, in London at the Olympic Games.

Marlon's laurels

It's almost blasphemous to think that any other Jamaican could have had a better 2012 campaign than that. Yet, that's what a Sunday phone call from a sports colleague has me doing. Apparently, Marlon Samuels has some sports fans thinking he could be the man.

Better than he was in the first half of his international career, Samuels scored freely in all three forms of cricket. Not only did he anchor the West Indies to victory in the T20 World Cup, but he was the region's top batsman in one-day play. There he scored 482 runs in 16 innings. Amongst West Indians, only compatriot Chris Gayle outscored him in T20 games, 368 to 325.

In the holy grail of Test cricket, Samuels showed his new resolve with 866 runs, a top score of 260 and 2012 average of 86.60. The solid Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the only West Indian above him, with 987 runs and an average of 98.70.

He was pretty good all year round. In January, he scored 66 off 52 balls to help Jamaica to beat the CCC in the regional T20 competition. After helping to bowl out Australia with two caught-and-bowled dismissals in T20 games in Bridgetown, he scored 107 and 76 against England in the second and third Tests, respectively. That was in May and June.

In July, he and Gayle scored centuries in the second ODI against the touring New Zealanders. Then came his fine play in the World T20, which includes a defiant knock of 78 in the final.

To close things off, he hit 260 in the second Test in Bangladesh and 126 in the third match of the one-day series.

Hard to compare

It's hard to compare athletes from different events in one sport and harder yet to compare athletes from different sports. For everyone who agrees that running sub-9.8 or 19.7 is like scoring a Test century, there'll be an army who disagree.

Yet, there can be no doubt that Samuels has had a great year of consistent performances. If you mark him down for heavy scoring on the placid pitches of Bangladesh, you have to give him credit for his strong showing in England. In fact, since the Englishmen have gone on to beat India in India, it suggests that the West Indian performances there deserve high praise.

Bolt lodged in place

Samuels probably hasn't done quite enough to dislodge Bolt. Blake, too, might edge Samuels. Imagine someone running 9.75 and 19.44 seconds and losing. That's what happened in London. Had the otherwise undefeated Blake beaten Bolt in either event in London, he might be Athlete of the Year.

It will be harder to argue that Hansle Parchment, Olympic bronze medallist and World champion boxer Nicholas Walters had better seasons than Samuels. Both made history, Parchment with Jamaica's first Olympic medal in the 110 hurdles and Walters with our first world title at home.

However, Parchment didn't dominate the big days the way Usain and Samuels did and Walters perhaps didn't fight enough.

Samuels may not have been better than Usain in 2012, but a year of fine work by the stylish Jamaican batsman certainly made us think about it.

Hubert Lawrence is co-author of 'The Power and The Glory - An Illustrated History of Jamaica in World Athletics'

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