Tuesday, July, 23,2024

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THE CURIOUS CASE OF SANJU SAMSON

India’s former coach Ravi Shastri has set off a big buzz by suggesting that Team India should give Sanju Samson far more opportunities. Team India’s former coach has urged selectors, BCCI and the team management to support Samson for 10 straight matches before taking a final decision on his future highlighting the injustice that has dogged the international career of the skipper of the Rajasthan Royals side in the IPL. Sanju Samson fans have often accused the national selectors of ruining an incredible talent like him. Most experts feel that the ‘Kerala King’ has not been given enough chances to cement his place in the Indian team. Samson was in tremendous form this year but the selectors didn’t pick him in the squad for the T20 World Cup or for the Asia Cup. This has happened in a year where he had a fine IPL season and led Rajasthan Royals to their first final since 2008 when the Royals under Shane Warne won the inaugural IPL championship. How shabbily Sanju often gets treated is clear even from the New Zealand trip where the 28-year-old is touring with India’s white-ball squad. Despite many seniors missing, Samson was not picked for any of the three T20 games against the Kiwis. In the first ODI game, he was picked and scored 36 runs from 38 balls after batting at number 6 and forged a crucial 94-run stand with Shreyas Iyer which helped India reach an over-300 total. After New Zealand won the first ODI, Samson was dropped again - for the sake of getting an extra bowler. The team management included batting all-rounder Deepak Hooda in place of Sanju for the next two ODI games – for Hooda as a parttime spinner could provide cushion to the other five bowlers. This further adds fuel to the fans’ anger about Sanju being treated unfairly in Team India. Given how much cricket Suryakumar Yadav has played lately, he could have been rested to give a fair chance to Samson in the middle order on the New Zealand tour. The series was an ideal time to give Saju continuous game-time in the middle after years of sporadic chances but the opportunity was wasted.

Sanju made his international debut in 2015 but since then, he’s been given very few chances. For the T20 World Cup in 2024, the choice of keeper-batsman will be between Rishabh Pant, Ishan Kishan and Samson. Though Sanju was the first to get selected, he has played much less games than the other two. The Rajasthan Royals skipper has appeared in just 16 T20Is for India. Even Ishan Kishan has played three more T20Is than Samson, while Rishabh Pant has played a huge 66 games for the country. In contrast to Pant who is going through a torrid time in white-ball games, Sanju scored 179 runs in the six T20Is he has played in 2022, averaging nearly 45 at a strike rate of 158.40. In ODIs, Samson has a career average of 66 but this year he averages 71 at a strike rate of 109 in 9 innings. His stats reveal that Sanju has done exceedingly well in the limited chances he’s got but the team management has hardly done justice to him. Moreover, Samson has always been the kind of player who doesn’t waste balls, plays impact innings and can change the course of a match in a matter of a few balls. As a dynamic batter, Sanju can be sent in both at the start of the innings or in the middle order. Despite being a wicketkeeper, he’s an outstanding fielder in the outfield. Sadly, Sanju does not figure even in the squads announced for the upcoming tour to Bangladesh where India plays 3 ODIs before a 2-Test series. As such, he now has to wait for the IPL to showcase his talent.

Given the dismal losses in the last two T20 World Cups, Team India needs to change its style of play from conservative to aggressive and Samson fits that narrative perfectly. At a time when India needs to rebuild its T20 team and prepare a strong squad for the ODI World Cup in 2023, Samson deserves an extended run in Team India. Nearly 33 years ago, India’s legendary cricketer, Mohinder Amarnath had famously called the selectors “a bunch of jokers.” It’s a pithy phrase that has been frequently used for Indian selectors since then. In looking at the curious case of mishandling the career of Sanju Samson, most Indian fans would tend to agree with Amarnath’s assessment even today!

THE VIEWS EXPRESSED BY THE AUTHOR ARE PERSONAL

SIDDHAARTH MAHAN  The writer is a specialist on Sports and Cinema who works as an actor in the Hindi fi lm industry

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