West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels marked his return from a two-year suspension with a half-century for Jamaica against the United States on Saturday and said he was targeting a return to the international scene.
Samuels, 29, was banned in 2008 for passing on team information to a bookmaker during a one-day series in India in January 2007.
“After 735 days to be back playing the game that I love to get fifty today was wonderful. I have had a wonderful welcome from the Jamaican team and it is so good to be back,” he told Reuters at the Lauderhill cricket ground in Florida.
The Jamaican, who has insisted he did no wrong and said he was made a scapegoat by officials, struck the ball well for 52 off 61 balls in the Twenty20 victory, a day after making 11 in a 50 over match.
Samuels was not allowed to play at any level of cricket and said he was even barred from playing in friendly club matches in Jamaica.
“It was tough but at the end of the day, the Almighty doesn’t give anyone a challenge that they can’t bear. It was most definitely unfair but I have to put that behind me and move forward,” he said.
“My love for the game kept me going, my love for the game is never dying so I just continued to practice and work as hard as possible.
“I knew the ban would come to an end and I would come back and carry on where I left off,” he said, adding that he had continued to work on his skills during his time out of the game.
“I have my own personal bowling machine which I invested in and I also have never had a shortage of people who would come and bowl to me,” he said.
With plenty of West Indies batsmen struggling for form at the moment, Samuels could be in line for a quick return to the Caribbean team, captained by fellow Jamaican Chris Gayle.
“I’m dealing with the future like I dealt with the last two years, just taking it in my stride. I’m in good nick, so I’m just looking to continue scoring runs and hope my runs will put where I deserve to be.
“Encouragement is always there. Chris is my best friend, we keep communicating and talk about cricket continuously. West Indies aren’t doing well at the moment but we can only improve,” he said.
(Editing by Justin Palmer; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)