BENGALURU: After every 50-plus knock Sanju Samson plays, social media goes abuzz. That’s because he doesn’t play ordinary innings. Some of his knocks have the mark of genius stamped on them, like the 212 off 129 balls (Kerala against Goa, highest individual score in Vijay Hazare Trophy), 91 off 48 (against South Africa A) or a 55-ball 102 in IPL last season. When he is in his element, he ensures everyone sits up and takes notice.
Thanks to those explosive innings, Samson keeps knocking on the India door despite being inconsistent. He was called up for the 2014 England tour and then for Zimbabwe next year, where he made international debut in a T20. Calls to give him another go became louder after MS Dhoni chose to take a sabbatical post World Cup. With India looking to experiment in the T20 series against Bangladesh, Sanju has another chance to prove his worth. He has done reasonably behind the stumps too.
Does he have it in him to make a bigger mark with the bat? Known more for his exploits as a white-ball cricketer, his List A average was just 28.52 before the double century, which is less than what nearest competitors Rishabh Pant (28.67) and Ishan Kishan (35.90) have. Consistency has been an issue. After the century in IPL, Sanju managed 8 and 6. In the Hazare Trophy, he made 15 and 0 after the double. Apart from the big one, he had just one half-century in eight innings.
The right-hander believes that to be among the runs regularly, he needs to change his batting style, something he isn’t willing to. “I often hear that I need to score regularly. But they forget that there is something called skill and I succeed with that twice in 10 times,” said the player, who was also accused of indiscipline by the Kerala Cricket Association in the past.
“I always look to score big. That’s my game and I don’t want to change that. I play positive and dominant cricket and there is a risk of getting out. I don’t like to stay at the crease for long and absorb a lot of balls. I’m happy to score double hundreds every 10 innings rather than 40s and 50s.”Fluctuating form was one reason why Sanju wasn’t considered for Duleep Trophy and India A’s first-class matches after IPL and had to sit out of competitive cricket for nearly four months.
But he utilised the time to hone his skills and scored 91 in one of the two one-day games against South Africa A in Thiruvananthapuram.“I felt bad at not getting selected. But now I think I was fortunate to get that break. When you play regularly you don’t get time to introspect. That time off gave me direction and helped me fall in love with cricket again,” said Sanju, who was also advised meeting a mental coach although he decided against it. “I started playing for fun, not to create records. I am enjoying my batting again, the smile is back. As long as I do that, runs will keep coming.”