Marlon Samuels conveys the impression of a man fiercely resolved to right some wrong every time he steps out to bat.
There is a serious intensity in the way he plays, a desperately hard will to do something big.
Since his return from a two-year ban for alleged links with bookies, Samuels has grown to become one of the West Indies’ most consistent and reliable batsmen – an unrecognisable difference from the perceptions of callousness that existed earlier.
“You can see I’m scoring a lot of international runs,” he says. “I enjoy and love international cricket. I’ve made it my home now.”
Samuels has just returned from a long training session at The Oval, standing before the microphones in the cold, bat tucked under the arm.
“It’s all about finding yourself. Back then I was in and out but now I’m playing consistently so you look forward to scoring runs consistently,” he says.
Since his comeback in March 2011, Samuels averages 54 from 17 Test matches, against a career average of 37.
He was the West Indies’ top-scorer on the tour of England last year, when he made 386 runs from five innings at 96.50; was second on the run charts against New Zealand at home; and almost single-handedly won his side the World T20 final.
The renaissance, from supposed waywardness to major responsibility, has been remarkable.
Today, Samuels is the team’s middle-order lifeguard; Gayle, they can afford to lose early, but not him.
The burden of expectation, though, does not weigh him down.
“For the last two years, being out and coming back has created a lot of responsibility around me outside of cricket,” he says.
“So going out there and playing the role that I’m playing right now – I find it much easier because off the field I have greater responsibility.”
That duty includes taking care of his family and his beloved dogs (no fewer than a dozen at one point – “they can’t feed themselves, you know”).
“I can’t afford to fail because I’m basically the breadwinner. For me to come out here and play the anchor role for the team, the entire Caribbean – I really enjoy it.”
Samuels’ sparkling form in England last summer was down to the hours of practice he put in to play the swinging ball well.
“I bat a lot of tape-ball: the rubber ball with tape on one side. It swings a lot. I practise it a lot especially before I come to England. So the English conditions don’t really bother me,” he says.
“It’s something you have to work on before you come here. I did it because I like to plan before. Last year was a big moment for me where I had to come here and score some runs.”
The Jamaican is speaking two days ahead of his team’s Group ‘B’ meeting with India at The Oval. “We always enjoy playing against India,” the 32-year-old smiles. “India has always had some wonderful people. We’re definitely looking forward to it.”
India can look forward to a diet of fast bowling on Tuesday, he feels.
“We don’t know the team as yet but in the last game, even the Pakistan bowlers were bowling pretty quick on this pitch. It’ll be interesting knowing that we have three fast bowlers. We have a bowler on the bench like Tino Best bowling at 90. That’s a good option.”
This ammunition is not limited to fast bowling alone. The West Indies is a well-rounded unit, and approaches limited-overs tournaments these days with the air of a team that is not the underdog anymore.
“It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that West Indies cricket has been down for a while,” he says. “We’ve been playing wonderful cricket and we have players that play right around the world. It augurs well. Our cricket is heading to the top again.”