Average? Dismal? Promising, though a tad bit disappointing. How would you rate Sanju Samson in his recent showings against not the most dangerous bowling attack of Sri Lanka?
The audience would like to hear the truth.
If you don’t consider Sanju Samson’s outing in the recent 3-match T20I series against Sri Lanka as being somewhat dismal, then either you are living under a rock or your cricketing judgment needs some work.
That’s the bitter truth.
34 runs from 3 games and a highest score of 27 isn’t a sign of potential, in fact, on the contrary, it endangers the chance of a very talented stroke-maker in becoming a permanent fixture in the very team he’s set his sights on.
So how does one analyse Samson’s performance in the Lankan paradise?
Sanju Samson's failures in national colours
Sanju Samson failing in a one-off series doesn’t sound like a problem, only if had that been the case. It’s not that this was yet another visit to Sri Lanka. As a matter of fact, part of a young contingent travelling to face a jaded Sri Lankan unit, this was Samson’s maiden trip to the beautiful island paradise.
Additionally, a one-off failure doesn’t sound like a problem in the first place.
But that’s only until you realize that Sanju Samson is currently being held up by two problems.
First, the very the prominent spot or role Sanju Samson wishes to make his own is being eyed by two prospects, not even one.
Moreover, both of whom are belligerent hitters of the ball much like Samson himself.
Both Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan can accumulate runs just as well as they can whip them at will.
Second, in each of the T20I assignments prior to visiting Sri Lanka, Samson was required to prove his mettle having been given the chance to wear the Indian jersey. However, his returns were underwhelming compared to the promise his potential points to.
Even against Zimbabwe, back then as a 21-year-old, in 2015, Samson made 19. Back then, with Uthappa as the keeper and Dhoni in the side, there was no chance he would’ve been made to come up the order.
Yet, at that point in time, he wasn’t a newcomer to the game, having already crossed 500 IPL runs.
That same year, his IPL strike rate was well over 100, which was way more than what his Zimbabwe outing offered: 79!
Another chance that went begging
Next, amid the endless fan banter and hue and cries that he must be played and given more chances (than were being offered) to prove himself- he traveled with the team to New Zealand, 2019.
There, he lasted 10 balls, including 2 games- making just 10 runs, moreover with an average of 5.
Hurts? Must have.
Surely, it can be intimidating to face a Southee, Santer and Sodhi-led attack in Kiwi country but since when has international cricket offered easy offerings to its triers?
Next, he was made to play against Australia, in the T20 series, last year. Another foreign assignment where doing well would’ve served a strong case to the selectors that here was a batsman who could give none other than Pant a fair amount of competition.
Sadly, despite getting a start in every game, wherein he made a quickfire 23 off 15 (outscoring Kohli, Dhawan and Pandey), followed by a 15 off 10 and then a lowly, 10 off 9, Samson failed to touch the 50-mark, a milestone that would’ve made one sit back and take serious notice of this talent.
Something that would’ve served great value akin to a certificate of excellence on a resume that can convince the HR.
Trouble is, India is a country oversupplied by human resources, two of which have already announced their intent at the international level and at a better scoring rate than Samson.
Ishan Kishan, with 1 fifty from the 2 ODIs he’s played in so far, has shown a strike rate of 130 to Samson’s 100, while Pant has already smashed 5 fifties from 50 limited overs’ outings boasting a higher strike rate than Samson in both ODIs and T20Is.
Had Sanju Samson, who made a notable 46 in the ODI against Sri Lanka, been a consistent performer across the T20I series, it might have only solidified his contention to wear the Indian Jersey for long. What if that 46 could’ve been turned into a 70, to keep himself on the radar of the selectors who’ll rightly stop at nothing to give India an ideal playing XI in the future?
But Cricket doesn’t work on chance or in the realm of the ‘what-might?’
Not that he wasn’t given a chance, Samson, who’s surely one of Kerala’s finest exports to Cricket, featured in all three T20I internationals, a decision made at the discretion of captain Shikhar Dhawan and coach Rahul Dravid.
Yet, the results are too weak to evade the scrupulous judgment, which one fears may not exactly help Samson’s cause.
With more Test matches than ODIs ahead in 2021, Samson’s chances to prove himself yet again seem limited if not mired with great uncertainty.
Moreover, with Pant having already settled well in the role of the Test keeper, what’s Samson left with?
So where’s Sanju Samson’s next break, if one might call it a lucky one, coming from?
To exacerbate his woes, there’s Saha too, who’s injured, but not retired as of yet. He has demonstrated great patience with the bat – remember the huge partnership with Pujara against the Aussies- in 2017?
And it’s patience that the firebrand Samson lacks. There are the big strokes on offer but along with that the risk of hitting one big shot too many to account for his own dismissal.
Who says in a slow T20 start you cannot conserve your energies before going big?
Samson’s conundrum is a really strange one. His batting has both technique to defend and sizeable capacity to explode. Yet, what he’s not been able to show is that one Gabba-like knock made by Pant in any format.
Can we see Samson again in Indian colours? Has he done enough to afford himself a chance? The latter would be a rather disdainful question since had that not been the case, they wouldn't have flown him to Sri Lanka.
But when will he truly fly?