IPL 2018: Sanju Samson is Proving He’s Ready For The Big Leagues
Sanju Samson celebrates a half century for Rajasthan Royals.
Sanju Samson celebrates a half century for Rajasthan Royals.(Photo: IANS)

IPL 2018: Sanju Samson is Proving He’s Ready For The Big Leagues

There is an interesting story around Sanju Samson and his childhood. His father, Viswanath Samson, would organise tennis ball matches in their North Delhi residential colony. If either Samson or his elder brother got out early, their father would tell them to stop playing and go home.

While it might seem harsh, Samson grew up in an environment where getting out was not okay if he wanted to continue playing the game. Viswanath would take his sons to practice sessions of the Delhi Police Cricket Team and ask the bowlers to bowl as fast as they could at them. To Samson's credit, he negotiated most things thrown at him, even if they came from 15 yards.

From street cricket in Delhi to more professional cricket in Trivandrum, Samson expanded his game play. “In Delhi, I was more of a 'V' player," he says. "I didn't want to get out, or my father would send me home. After I came to Trivandrum, I started playing all these shots,” he had said in an interview sometime ago.

While Samson was never shy of playing his shots, the fear of getting out instilled in him since his younger days makes him special. India chances have eluded him after a solitary appearance in 2015 in Zimbabwe where India customarily take A teams.

Sanju Samson’s IPL season so far.
Sanju Samson’s IPL season so far.

He might not have gotten a chance to impress Indian skipper Virat Kohli at close quarters like a Pawan Negi, Yuzvendra Chahal or Lokesh Rahul. But IPL auctions sees players “paraded like cattle” – as New Zealand Cricket Players Association chief executive Heath Mills puts it – and Samson has no way of ensuring he will be in the same team as Kohli. But as though to get his point through to the skipper, Samson humiliated Royal Challengers Bangalore in front of their home fans as he went on a six hitting spree at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on 15 April.

Sanju smashed 10 sixes in his breathtaking knock that took the wind out of Royal Challengers’ wings. Samson swivelled across and smashed Kulwant Khejroliya over square-leg to kick start his innings. From there, he never looked back as he slogged sixes for fun, much to the delight of the small section of Rajasthan fans in the stadium.

Such was the impact of his 45 ball 92 that Virat Kohli could do nothing but watch the blitzkrieg helplessly and hope to do something similar in the run chase. That didn't materialise and the Indian skipper was all praise for Samson in the interaction with the media. “It was brilliant. He is a really talented player, we have seen over the years he has done well in IPL. He has got a good, simple game, quite strong in the crease, very balanced,” Kohli said at a media interaction. “He got off to a good start, then bowlers bowled well, but he kept his shape, hanging in there. Eventually in the end, he was watching the ball well, striking it really well”.

Balance. The key to Samson's batting, like that of de Villiers’, is his impeccable balance at the crease. Technique is often underrated, after the likes of Virender Sehwag and David Warner rubbished those notions. But when you are balanced at the crease and move your feet and head towards the ball, you don't really need great power to clear the ropes. Samson barely loses steam when he plays his exquisite shots; he boasts an innate ability to time the ball over the fence effortlessly.

Jaipur: Rajasthan Royals Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson during IPL 2018 cricket match against Delhi Daredevils at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Wednesday
Jaipur: Rajasthan Royals Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson during IPL 2018 cricket match against Delhi Daredevils at Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on Wednesday
(Photo: BCCI)

Technique alone separates him from other young contenders for the wicket-keeping spot – Rishabh Pant and Ishan Kishan. While Pant and Kishan can stun you with their power-hitting in one of their knocks, consistency isn't their forte; And this is where Samson scores. With him, there is more assuredness and composure at the crease and the knock at Bangalore shows that he can step up his game when needed. Seventy five runs came off the final four overs for Rajasthan on Sunday, 15 April, as Samson knocked off 50 of them in 15 balls.

Samson’s major hurdle in the previous seasons was his tendency to throw his wicket away after getting starts. However, entrusted with the responsibility of manning Rajasthan's middle-order, Samson has thrived. Runs have flown out of his bat; and unsurprisingly, the stupendous knock at Bangalore gave him the orange cap.

The 23-year-old has been a part of the Indian Premier League since 2012, when Kolkata Knight Riders picked him up at the auctions. Though he didn't play that season, Rajasthan Royals picked him up next year and the association was fruitful.

At Delhi Daredevils last year, Samson was used consistently in the top order; He knocked off the most runs he has ever made in a single season of the tournament (386), including a fabulous ton against Rising Pune Supergiant.

The Ranji Trophy season, where Kerala had a dream run to the quarterfinals, saw Samson lead them from the front, with 627 runs in 7 matches at an average of 52.25. In the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 competition, Samson scored more than Gautam Gambhir, Vijay Shankar and quite a few other prominent names. The build up to the IPL for him was as good as any; With a more responsible position in the batting order, Samson has come into his own.

With scores of 49, 37 and 92*, the young Kerala batsman has had a dreamy start to the IPL. All he needs now, to ward off his tendency of giving away starts, is his father sounding a warning of sending him home if he gets out early. It's too early in the season, but one gets the feeling that Sanju Samson has finally arrived.

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