It’s now or never for Sanju Samson
A few years ago, Shane Watson looked on from the other end, wondering how his partner on the striker’s end was just 18 years of age. The elegance with which he caressed the ball, the magnificence with which he timed it and the nonchalant brilliance in the placement of the shot, everything about this teenager oozed class.
Surely, he would play for Indian someday – Shane Watson might have thought. Surely, he was going to be a star. But as the saying goes, we weep to believe where only dreams have witnessed beyond.
On his day, Sanju Samson looks like the most flawless batsman in the world. But, alas, that—‘on his day’—is perhaps his biggest flaw. When he gets going, he is like a juggernaut that can’t be stopped by anyone.
However, the problem with him always has been to get going. Samson’s inconsistency is the eclipse to his radiant sun, which is why 8 years after he wowed the world in the Indian Premier League, he has only played once for Team India.
His average of under 30 in both List A and T20 cricket is a damning statistic that reveals the deepest crevice in his game; that he lacks the consistency required from a player who aspires to be a part of the Men in Blue in the international arena.
From 2014 to 2015, he was frequently called up to the squad but couldn’t make an appearance in the starting XI until he was handed his debut against Zimbabwe in Harare in a T20I match.
Since then, it has been a long and arduous road for the superstar from Kerala. Indeed, after being selected for the T20I squad against Bangladesh in October 2019, he failed to make an appearance in the playing XI and was subsequently dropped for the T20I and ODI series against West Indies, inciting the bewilderment from the likes of Shashi Tharoor and former India spinner Harbhajan Singh.
Life is all about taking the opportunities
For Sanju Samson, the opportunity came in the form of an unfortunate injury to Shikhar Dhawan. The left-handed dashing opener had to be withdrawn from the squad with Sanju Samson joining in as his replacement.
This is an opportunity bourne out of a seminal tragedy—and Sanju Samson needs to grab it with both hands.
The signs, however, are not that promising. Sure, he scored a double century against Goa in the Vijay Hazare Trophy but a look at his scores in the other matches will reveal his age-old problem with consistency.
15, 0, 12, 9, 53, 38 – these are his scores after smashing 212* against Goa in a List A game and it is an epitome of how his career as a player has been. Had he smashed a couple more centuries in the following games, he would almost certainly have had a role to play against Bangladesh in the recently-concluded T20I series.
This has always been a problem for Samson. In IPL, there are games when his performance almost single-handedly brings his team to the coast of victory and then in the very next game, he gives his away his wicket in the most infuriating way.
And yet, fate works in mysterious ways and he now has another opportunity to showcase his talent at the international level. Only time will tell whether the management would entrust him with a place in the starting XI against West Indies but should he be given a chance, he will have to grab it.
The talent in him has always been apparent but the application leaves a lot to be desired. It is almost as though he takes his talent for granted and expects it to do the job on its own.
However, as the saying goes, talent without application doesn’t take a player too far. Against West Indies, he will have back his skill with a strong mindset, with sheer diligence and grit… with all that he has in him.
If he sets his mind with an immovable will, the rest will be taken care of by his natural gift.
The last time he played in an India shirt at the international arena was in 2015—so it has been over four years of wait for the man from Kerala. But the interval might be even longer should he fail to make an impact this time, if provided with the opportunity.
As Jon Bon Jovi sings in his famous track ‘It’s my life’… it’s now or never.
Now or never for Sanju Samson.