NEW DELHI: Sanju Samson
was just 21 when he wore the Indian jersey for the first time in a T20I match against Zimbabwe in Harare in 2015.
He was then handed an ODI cap in 2021, almost 6 years after his debut in the shortest format of the game.
Sanju, who is 28 now, has played 11 ODIs and 16 T20Is between 2015 and 2022, a career spanning 7 years and 5 months.
Many believe that Samson has been continuously overlooked by the team management and sometimes the selectors too. He has been warming the benches in almost every series he has been named in the squad for, coming onto the field only to deliver drinks and replacement bats.
It’s no secret that Rishabh Pant is usually India’s first choice keeper. With the departure of Wriddhiman Saha, that’s pretty much true across all three formats.
But, Pant has been struggling. That too is no secret. He was released from the India squad for the ongoing ODI series vs Bangladesh after the first match that India lost by 1 wicket. Pant didn’t play in that match and there has been no clarity on whether he was released because of workload management, poor form or a niggle. KL Rahul, the vice captain, donned the keepers’ gloves.
Recently, Pant was seen struggling in the ODI series against the Blackcaps. In two innings, Pant managed to score just 25 runs at an average of 12.50.
In the T20I series vs the Kiwis, Pant, who has so far played 30 ODIs and 66 T2OIs, failed miserably with the bat and scored just 17 runs in 2 matches at an average of 8.50.
Samson was part of the three-match ODI series against New Zealand last month too and got to play just one match. That was the opening match of the 3 game series, which New Zealand won by 7 wickets. Pant batted at number 4 and scored a 23 ball 15, Samson walked in at number 6 and made a 38 ball 36. He was subsequently dropped and Deepak Hooda was brought in in his place. Pant stayed on in the playing XI. The second and third ODIs didn’t produce a result, but Pant did bat in the last match of the series and scored a 16 ball 10.
That saw the Pant vs Samson debate being reignited.
For the ongoing Bangladesh ODIs, Sanju wasn’t included in the squad, with Ishan Kishan being named in the three-match series.
Sanju, in his 11-ODI career so far, has scored 330 runs at an average of 66 and a strike rate of 104.76. He has two fifties.
Between 2015 and 2022, Samson has featured in 27 international matches (11 ODIs and 16 T20Is).
New entrant Deepak Hooda, who made his ODI and T20I debuts in February this year has already played 25 matches (10 ODIs and 15 T20Is).
Ishan Kishan meanwhile has been given the nod in 30 matches (9 ODIs and 21 T20Is) since his debut in March 2021.
India’s regular and first-choice keeper Pant has played 66 T20I matches since his debut in 2017 and 30 ODI games since his One Day debut in 2018.
Is Sanju being ignored? Is it time perhaps to give the 28-year-old a longer rope? While there are many who believe that he definitely should be given more chances, there are also those who point to his average of 21 and strike rate of 135 in T20I cricket. There could be different first choice keepers for Tests and limited overs games of course, but not two separate ones for ODIs and T20Is. Sanju has a healthy ODI average, but hasn’t really managed to replicate his IPL heroics on the T20I stage. But then again, he has played only 16 T20I games so far.
Former India cricketer Hemang Badani feels it’s time to give Sanju a more ‘regular and consistent’ run in the Indian side.
“Sanju Samson does need to be looked at. More than just looking in, he needs to be given a long run. He needs to be given a regular and consistent run. It’s not like – make him play one match, then drop him from the remaining ones, then play him again and then drop him saying we need an extra bowler,” Badani, who played 40 ODIs and 4 Tests for India between 2000 and 2004, told TimesofIndia.com.
That sentiment of course is being echoed by many.
“It’s time we should give him a decent run. Someone who has 11 matches under his name and an average above 60 (in ODIs), should be given a go. He should be given a long rope, like others,” Badani further told TimesofIndia.com.
SANJU AS THE FIRST-CHOICE WICKET-KEEPER FOR ICC ODI WORLD CUP 2023 – WISHFUL THINKING OR DISTINCT POSSIBILITY?
Who will be India’s first-choice wicket-keeper going into the ICC World Cup 2023, which will be played in India?
Pant, the first choice in the category, is out of form. He was in fact released abruptly from the Indian ODI squad for the three-match series against Bangladesh. Pant was released following consultation with the BCCI medical team.
Ishan Kishan, who last played an ODI in October against South Africa and scored 10 runs, has played 9 ODIs so far and scored 267 runs at an average of 33.37.
In 9 ODI games, Ishan has kept wickets in just two – during the ODI series vs Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka in 2021. So, inexperience may cost Ishan the first choice keeper’s spot.
The absence of Pant meant KL Rahul donned the gloves during the opening ODI of the three-match series against Bangladesh on Sunday and then again in the second ODI. It was the first time Rahul had kept wickets in India’s ODI side in over a year.
So here’s the conundrum – No one can question Pant’s capabilities with the bat. However, if he continues to struggle, will the team management look to continue with Rahul as the designated keeper to maintain team balance or turn their gaze somewhere else?
Sanju has played 11 ODIs in his career so far and has kept wickets in 10 matches. He has 7 catches and 2 stumpings under his belt.
“We are still too far from it (2023 ODI World Cup). We are still searching. The debate is still on. India have not been able to decide on this. We have got Rishabh Pant who is talented, exciting, and has a good ODI record. We have got Sanju Samson who is talented and does well whenever he gets the chance. He has done exceedingly well. We have got KL Rahul who can keep for us. We have got Ishan Kishan who can keep for us. The slot is completely open right now,” Badani signed off.