Samson Is an Artist, and Finesse, Not Consistency Might Be His Art
Sanju Samon’s been a ‘promising young’ cricketer for years, but when does he take the next leap?
“Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
Consistency can be defined as an art. Having consistent thoughts, consistent behaviour. Or in this case, consistent form. Right from a young age, the importance of constancy is imbibed, which, in an ever-changing world, will help you attain success.
The sports field is no different either. Every young kid who dreams to play professionally is taught the importance of the “C” word. To make a spot in history books, you can ill afford to have a career graph with peaks and troughs, as it is considered a tarnish on your legacy.
Sanju Samson is one of the finest cricketers around in the Indian circuit. With impeccable timing, power and the ability to clear the boundaries at will, the Kerala youngster has been singled out as a future star.
The only problem is that he has been touted as one ever since he made his Team India debut way back in 2015. Though he has the attacking game and is not short of talent, Samson has been unable to seal his spot in the team.
A good score gets him back in the news, before he fizzles out again. This trend is hard to miss. Before 2020, Samson had never scored consecutive 50-plus scores in the IPL. Since 2017, he has been starting the tournament with blazing knocks that promises much. In 2017, the cricketer scored 13 and 102 in the first two games before amassing only 271 runs in the remaining 12 matches. The next year, Samson began with 49, 37 and an unbeaten 92 in the IPL but could score only 263 in the remaining 12 games. Even last year, Samson smashed 30 and 102* in the first two league games, but only scored 210 matches in the remaining 10 games.
In seven editions, he has managed to score 350-plus runs just twice, and though he has two hundreds and 12 fifties to his name in 95 IPL games, they have been too far and few in between.
Coming to domestic cricket, Samson has just crossed 500 runs twice in Ranji Trophy - in 2017-18, when he scored 627 runs, and way back in 2013-14. His List A average stands at just 30.57 after 84 games - despite an unbeaten 212 that he had scored last year against Goa, while his T20 average is just over 27. Other than his historical double ton, he has no other century in the Vijay Hazare tournament, while his T20 numbers do not do justice either. He had scored 15 and 0 after the double ton, and had a List A average of 28.52 before the innings - less than Ishan Kishan and Rishabh Pant, his immediate competitors.
And, yet, despite his glaring inconsistencies, Samson always tends to send social media into a buzz when he does well. That is because the knocks in which he decides to unleash himself are not ordinary knocks. Like his 42-ball 85 against Kings XI Punjab this season or the 91 off 48 that he had scored against South Africa A. Every knock is well-crafted, temperamentally sound and oozes perfection, and it only increases the calls for him to be picked in the Indian team. However, his fluctuating form comes in the way, and is a reason why he has just played four T20Is for India.
“I’m happy to score double hundreds every 10 innings rather than 40s and 50s. I have never thought of that (consistency) as an issue. What I have understood is that I am a bit different type of a player where I just feel that I should go and dominate the bowlers. If I go behind consistency, I will lose my style of batting. I don’t want to change my style of playing to bring in consistency.”
While his argument might seem flawed in a field where runs and runs and runs are all that matters, what stands out is his clarity and his ability to define the role that he has set for himself. He wants to be known as a special talent instead of someone who can add value to the team, and does not want to keep reinforcing that. He is self-aware and is instead spending his days grooming youngsters than thinking about the day he will be called up for India yet again.
As a member of the Whatsapp group “MCG Spartans”, Samson has been helping young boys - not only on the field but off it as well by sharing his experiences of handling negativity.
For over four years, the player was overtly obsessed with getting a national call-up, an obsession that made him question his love for the game, almost got him to give up playing the sport entirely and saw him embroiled in disciplinary issues.
A changed perspective, however, enabled him to clear the cobwebs that surrounded him, which in turn made him realise the importance of strength-training. Using equipment used by MMA fighters and rugby players, Samson started enjoying the process, realising that consistency will be a by-product of it.
“Nowadays I find myself relaxed when batting, even smiling while batting. Even when I miss a ball. Earlier I would get angry with myself and say ‘come on Sanju how could you miss that ball’, now I tell myself ‘it is ok, the bowler is also trying his best to get you out’. I have started enjoying the game once again, just like the times when I first started playing,” he says.
While consistency is harped upon, Samson has been yearning for the childlike enthusiasm that fascinated him towards cricket in the first place. With back-to-back fifties in the IPL this year, we can safely say that a different approach has worked wonders, and even if he fails in the next game, it should not be overtly scrutinised. We can, instead, look forward to the splendid knocks that will not be short of jaw-dropping amazement. For, let us get this straight - Samson is an artist but consistency might never be his art.
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