My Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘Sanju Samson

Wicket-Keeping is a crucial component in a Test team. There is a reason why teams don’t compromise on quality of keeping in Tests as opposed to the shorter formats. While all Test teams have decent to good wicket-Keeping batsmen, India have struggled to find one since the retirement of the legendary MS Dhoni.

The Test keeping spot for India has been quite a game of musical chairs between Wriddhiman Saha amd Rishabh Pant. While Saha is the better keeper of the two his batting has been less than inspiring and hasn’t been of Test quality. Gone are the days when Test teams select a wicket keeper for just their good glove work. Almost every Test side in the world now has a wicket keeper who can bat really well. For India it has been a dilemma at least in the Test arena as while Rishabh Pant is an exciting bat his keeping against especially spin is lot left to be desired.

Pant has already dropped 4 chances in the Test and a half he has kept wickets in the ongoing series and things haven’t changed much since the last time he was dropped. Saha on the the other hand is known for his excellent glove work but again age isn’t on his side and his batting has dipped to a level of not being of international standard. The Indian team though over the last 5 years since the retirement of MS Dhoni from this format haven’t tried any other options which makes it very difficult to come up with a replacement immediately.

The Indian management and the selection committee need to dig deeper into the domestic system to bring out a good wicket-keeping batter for Tests. Indian domestic system has 30+ FC teams and it is hard to believe that they cannot find one wicket-keeper who can keep better than Pant and can score runs as well. While Pant is a good batter his glove work needs lots of work and international cricket isn’t the place to learn your trade. Parthiv Patel another youngster who had a brilliant Test series down under in 2003/04 was dropped because of his poor keeping which cost India a series win. Rishabh Pant despite his mouthwatering stroke play needs to spend more time in domestic cricket and work with coaches to improve his glove work if he wants to represent India has a Test wicket keeper.

The problem for India is that even when we look at the IPL squads except for Sanju Samson and Ishan Kishan there aren’t many promising young keepers in any of the franchises. Most teams have an overseas wicket-keeper which isn’t helping much with unearthing talent for Indian team. While I am not suggesting we pick a Test wicket keeper based on IPL performance, we at least would have some idea about their skills with the glove in a high pressure tournament.

Right now in the ongoing series India do not have many options but in the future though the selectors need to think about giving opportunities to other young keepers in the domestic system. India will soon be playing at home where keeping against Ravi Ashwin and Ravi Jadeja will be crucial and they cannot have Rishabh Pant in the current form to be doing that. Going back to Saha will be a step back as well. If India wants to be a force in Test cricket they need a keeper who makes less mistakes and is reliable behind the wicket and at the moment Rishabh Pant is not that.

Every time an Indian national squad is announced there is always controversy. Fans and experts alike question selections, express disappointment over someone missing out and there is conspiracy theories always floating around. The three squads announced for the Australian tour wasn’t immune to that either. But again the T20I squad garnered the most criticism. Lets look at the T20 squad and analyse the “Controversial”
picks in more detail.

Team India T20I squad: Virat Kohli (Captain), Shikhar Dhawan, Mayank Agarwal, KL Rahul (vice-captain and wicket-keeper), Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Hardik Pandya, Sanju Samson (wicket-keeper), Ravindra Jadeja, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohd. Shami, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Varun Chakravarthy

The T20I squad garnered the most criticism and critique from the fans and experts alike. The biggest controversy or mystery is the omission of Rohit Sharma. Rohit has been absent from the Mumbai Indians playing XI for the past 3 games and also I am sure BCCI would have consulted the franchise medical staff before making the call. There is no way BCCI would omit their star limited overs player with hearsay or half baked information. There is a reason why Rohit hasn’t been picked for the tour. The fact that MI posted on social media about Rohit practicing after squad announcement is highly unprofessional as despite that he did not partake in an important clash against RCB last night. Considering there isn’t much time between the end of IPL and the beginning of the Australian tour, I feel the call was right.

The next controversy was with the omission of Rishabh Pant from the T20I side. I am a big fan of Rishabh but again I need to be objective about a player. Yes he is brilliant and yes he is very talented but lets look at his numbers just to stay little fair on the players picked. Pant has played 28 T20Is for India and has an average of 20 at a SR of 121. Not earth shattering numbers by any means. His IPL season this year so far has been mixed bag. He hasn’t been his belligerent best and has shown lack of form over the last year or so. Sanju Samson got a lot of criticism from experts for his lack of good FC scores but again we are talking about T20 games. Yes Sanju himself isn’t the most consistent or reliable but when Pant was given 28 games to prove himself, I feel we can at least give Samson 3 more games to show his mettle.

The other contentious spot in the squad was the selection of Varun Chakravarthy. Yes Varun is a reasonably unknown commodity and not many people rate him as a spinner. He has had a great season so far for KKR but again the argument is that there are better spinners available than Varun in India. Fair enough, the only other player who I thought could have been picked is Kuldeep Yadav as he has brilliant T20 numbers but again his bowling has been on the decline in LO formats over the last 18 months. Yes there is Ravi Bishnoi and Rahul Chahar but again I don’t see selection of a young spinner is that bad as it is made to be. It does seem like the selectors have picked him based on his IPL2020 performance but again that’s fine as both spinners I mentioned above is a future star and will be picked soon in the Indian XI. Yes Varun might not be the best spinner in India but again his selection isn’t as bad as it is made out to be. Krunal Pandya and Axar Patel compete directly with Ravindra Jadeja and Washington Sundar. They both are bowling all-rounders and Varun has been picked as a specialist bowler. Sundar and Jadeja have been very good in shorter formats and their bowling this IPL has been brilliant as well. Jadeja especially has been batting brilliantly for CSK. So I don’t see any controversy in their selection.

The one player who even I though should have been in the T20I squad is Suryakumar Yadav. He has been brilliant in IPL for years and it is strange that he does not get picked for the national side. He once again proved last night how amazing he is in this format and I hope that the selectors give him a chance soon in both the LO format. He is a deserving player and should have been part of this squad to Australia.

This is just a 16 member squad and not everyone can get into the XI. There have been few people preferred over the other and while we can argue the merit of others who haven’t been picked, we cannot deny the talent of the people who are in the squad. The rest of the squad is on the expected lines except for the return of Shikhar Dhawan at the top and the addition of Mayank Agarwal in T20 after his brilliant season for KXIP this year so far.

Overall I feel that even though the T20I squad hasn’t impressed everyone, the selectors haven’t done a horrible job as it is made out to be. They have picked the best available players on merit and I don’t see this as a disaster. Everyone might feel someone someone else would have been a better choice in the squad but again that would be in the hindsight.

After starting the season with two wins, Rajasthan Royals have now lost three games in a row. It is interesting though that their two wins came at Sharjah and all their losses have been in Abu Dhabi & in Dubai. Batting has been the major issue for RR this season. While their batters have been brilliant in Sharjah, they haven’t been able to replicate the same on bigger grounds of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

RR have a very good batting line up but it does seem like their thinking is little muddled in terms of selection. They have played around with the opening combination in the five games so far. While they started with Yashasvi Jaiswal in their first game, they dropped him in their second to go with Steven Smith and Jos Buttler. After 4 games they once again decided to bring Jaiswal back to have him open with Buttler dropping Smith to number 3. This shows lack of clarity in the team management and moving players around so much normally does not yield consistent results.

The interesting fact is that they also have Robin Uthappa in their squad who was played in the middle order for the first few games only to be dropped in their last game against Mumbai Indians. Robin Uthappa being a opener himself wasn’t tried at that spot before being dropped from the team. For young Jaiswal though the pressure will be immense as he would know that another failure could see him getting dropped again. The other problem for RR has been the lack of consistency from their star player Sanju Samson. While Samson was unstoppable on tiny Sharjah ground, he has struggled on the other grounds this season.

He hasn’t tried to stick it out and has thrown his wicket away in the last three game his team has played. The pattern so far has been similar to last year for RR as Samson who started brilliantly then too fell off later in the season. Jos Buttler has looked good and has played couple of good knocks and so has Steven Smith. The fact that their middle order keeps changing every game does not help matters. Riyan Parag has played a few games, David Miller has gotten a game and there have been few others who have been hastily changed without proper chances.

They still have Manan Vohra in their squad who hasn’t gotten a chance to try out which considering their season they might do. While CSK has a problem of not having enough options, RR have the opposite issue. Sometimes to kick start a season some sort of consistency in selection is required which RR haven’t been able to achieve in the 5 games they have played so far.

While they are playing the best team of the tournament in the game tonight, they would be happy to their happy hunting ground Sharjah. Scoring freely against a varied bowling attack of Delhi Capitals will not be easy but again they will be hoping for their stars to perform. For RR to turn this season around they would need to pick their best XI and give them 2-3 games in a row. Tonight’s game will be crucial for RR and another loss might see the season slipping away from them once again.

My XI for tonight’s game:

Robin Uthappa, Jos Buttler, Steven Smith, Sanju Samson, Mahipal Lomror, Rahul Tewatia, Jofra Archer, Tom Curran, Shreyas Gopal, Kartik Tyagi, Ankit Rajpoot/Jaidev Unadkat

Five years and four T20I games is all Sanju Samson has to show for in his international career. A talented Wicket Keeping batter from Kerala, Sanju first got his chance as a 20 year old in Zimbabwe. He did not cover himself with glory there but again it was understandable due it being his first series as an Indian national. He then went on to give some stellar performances in IPL for Rajasthan Royals which forced the selectors to give him another chance in the New Zealand tour earlier this year.

Samson got just 2 games in the series and he wasn’t successful in the two outings against New Zealand. The biggest problem though is that though is four chances over 5 years isn’t much for a young player. Sanju Samson is a gifted hitter and an amazing talent who also gives you an added advantage of being a wicket-keeper as well. He has been amazing in the IPL for multiple seasons and has once again begun the 2020 season in stellar fashion.

The Indian selectors and team management haven’t shown any patience with young players in the XI over the past few years. Different players have different yardsticks and the selection has been unfair on certain domestic talents. Karun Nair’s name comes into mind immediately. Only in India we would see a player whose last innings was a 300 and does not play in a Test XI for 4 years. Manish Pandey is another player whose career has been mismanaged. People talking about his slow batting in ODIs etc need to understand that he is a brilliant player and a fielder and should be part of Indian plans for all formats of the game.

Sanju Samson falls under same category. As an amazingly gifted batter he needs to be given a long rope in limited overs formats. His FC average of 37 isn’t that great but he is just 25 and I am sure he will make amends on that too before he ends his career. While India’s T20 team has been struggling for hitters over the past few years it is strange to see them ignore such talents at the highest level.

India’s current LO wicket keeper is Rishabh Pant. While Pant himself is an incredible talent his performance in LO formats hasn’t been very consistent. He for sure has earned his stripes as a Test player with hundreds on first tours to Australia and England but that hasn’t translated to LO performances. In 39 innings so far in LO format Pant averages 23. He made his debut in 2018 and has already played 44 games. There is nothing wrong in backing a player like Rishabh Pant but again other players need to be extended the same opportunities. The chances and selections need to fair. This is where Sanju Samson hasn’t been backed by the management yet.

Shreyas Iyer went through the same but again the Delhi Capitals captain made a stunning comeback after the world cup and has cemented his place in the LO teams. The Indian fans are already calling for Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Devdutt Padikkal to be picked for the National team but again we need to make sure we do not ignore an entire generation of talent for the future. Sanju Samson needs to be given a fair go and I hope the selectors/team management take cognizance of that. It is all good to have great talent at the domestic level but if they aren’t utilised it does not mean much.

IPL evokes mixed emotions among fans across the world. Some people call it great entertainment whilst the others call it a meaningless slogathon. The only thing as an Indian fan which compels me to watch this long drawn out tournament is the young Indian players. In the past the only way to know about a young talent is when they made the Indian team. In the last 15 years or so television has brought domestic games closer to us but still not a lot of us get time to follow them. The IPL though is something which sheds light on these young talents. The current IPL is no different. Performances in the IPL need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Even though there are some great bowlers taking part in the tournament, flat pitches and small boundaries kind of negate any sort of impact they might have on the batsmen. In spite of all that it takes a special talent for an uncapped player to perform in front of record crowds and against some international greats. So here is the list of players that impressed me this season. I am only including their list A and FC records as a yardstick as I don’t think performances in IPL should be taken into account when selecting players for ODI’s and test cricket.

Shreyas Iyer (FC: 50.56, LA: 54.60)

Of all the young players this season none impressed me more than this 20 year old. Shreyas Iyer opened the batting for Delhi Daredevils and has performed brilliantly with the bat. Shreyas represents Mumbai in first class cricket and has made an impressive start to his career. He already has 2 hundreds in 10 first class games and averages 50. His List A record is also impressive as he averages 54 with a hundred already to his credit in 6 games. Shreyas looks primed for India debut sooner than they would have imagined but again it will be interesting to see if the selectors go for him in the upcoming tour to Bangladesh. Shreyas looks like a test prospect for India and I hope he is not thrown in too soon in that format.

Deepak Hooda (FC: 50.63, LA: 40.60)

Here is another youngster who has had an impressive beginning in first class cricket for Baroda. Deepak Hooda has 2 first class hundreds in 8 games at an impressive average of 50.63. He had a brilliant start to IPL for Rajasthan Royals but has fallen off the grid as the tournament progressed. Hooda has brilliant hand eye coordination and has shown that even at the age of just 20 he can hit long balls. Hooda looks a perfect middle order prospect for ODI/T20 format for India as he can bowl part time off spin if needed. Hooda is another brilliant find this season by Rajasthan who lead the way in unearthing good Indian talent.

Pawan Negi (FC: Bat – 27, Bowl – 42, LA: Bat – 6.00, Bowl – 33.66)

The Delhi left arm spinner who plays for CSK does not have enough FC experience at this point. The 22 year old though has shown enough spark in the T20 games to suggest that he could be a good back up for Ravi Jadeja in the shorter formats. Pawan is a good lower order bat and a good left arm spinner who has done well for CSK in IPL games. He needs to play more FC games for us to judge if he can represent the Indian team beyond T20’s and ODI games. Pawan has shown great talent with the bat which augurs well for India in the shorter format. Let’s hope that with experience he can become a good bowling all-rounder for India in all formats.

Sarfaraz Khan (FC: 23.75, List A: 29)

Young Sarfaraz is all of just 17 years of age and has been a revelation for RCB in IPL 2015. He has played couple of crucial innings for RCB this season and looks like a great prospect for team India in the future. Sarfaraz hasn’t played too many FC games to take his stats seriously. He is just 17 and has few more years to find his feet at this level. His talent is apparent but we need to make sure that he is not rushed to international cricket. Sarfaraz needs few years in FC cricket before he can be considered for Indian team and I hope that he gets there.

Yuzvendra Chahal (FC Bowling: 40.06, LA Bowling: 23.28)

Chahal is a good young leg-spinner who has held his own this season for RCB. The Haryana leg-spinner does not have earth shattering FC record but has a very good LA record. With India looking for a good leg-spin option in shorter format, Chahal can fit the bill. He has great control for the shorter formats and his economy rate of 3.98 in LA games show that he can be miserly as well. A bowler who can pick wickets and also keep the lids on the scoring is a perfect recipe for shorter format. The Indian selectors need to keep a close eye on him for the future as he can be a useful addition to the Indian ODI/T20 bowling line up.

Shreyas Gopal (FC Bat: 34.86, FC Bowl: 23.55)

Okay Shreyas Gopal hasn’t played many games for Mumbai Indians this season. In fact he just played one game at the start of the season and has not been considered again for MI in this season. Shreyas is a brilliant prospect for India in all formats. A leg-spinner with good control, Shreyas provides great variation the Indian team is looking for in the bowling lineup. Not only Shreyas is a good leg-spin option he also has 2 first class hundreds to his name at an average of 35 which makes him a very good option in tests and ODI. I included Shreyas because he is very talented even though we hardly saw him play this season. Hopefully the selectors are keeping an eye out form as he has performed brilliantly for Karnataka in Ranji trophy.

Honorable mention: Anureet Singh (FC Bowl: 26.67, LA Bowl: 23.36) and Jagadeesha Suchith

The above players might get a look in sooner if the selectors are going to send in an experimental squad to Bangladesh earlier next month. There are also others like Sanju Samson, Suryakumar Yadav, Sandeep Sharma and KM Jadav, who are consistent performers for their state sides over the years and have also performed excellently in the IPL who will be hoping to get a look in, in the upcoming tour. It will be interesting to see what team the BCCI decides to send to Bangladesh. The performance of Bangladesh against Pakistan at home would probably sway BCCI to send much more balanced squad this time but again there is scope for some experimentation. It will be interesting to see if any of the youngsters find a place in the ODI team. Sanju Samson, Sandeep Sharma, Anureet Singh and Kedar Jadav will be in the top of the pile as some regulars are expected to miss out.


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