IF YOU ever wondered why everyone fusses so much over Sanju Samson, you just had to see the first 10 deliveries he faced on Tuesday. In a format that calls for batsmen to produce fast-paced solos and shred metal licks, it’s not often you get to see a classical symphony. This was one of those rare occasions. And it was an extremely talented 22-year-old youngster who was putting on a show.
Those first 10 deliveries included five boundaries. Three delectable square drives, a Desmond Haynes-like whip through mid-wicket and an on-the-up push-drive towards the cover region.
With each one of them if you froze the screen at the point bat met ball for a “what happened next” quiz, you wouldn’t expect many to have picked “boundary” as an answer. For there seemed to be no apparent intent on Sanju’s part on each of those occasions to do so, especially with the first two fours. They were both two full out-swinging deliveries from Deepak Chahar, and all Sanju did was lean in the direction of the ball and extend his hands towards it with bat in tow. But he still seemed to have enough time to turn his wrists at the last moment to guide it past the point fielder. Then he repeated the shot off Ashok Dinda in the next over. And every time he played that shot, he reeked of the talent that everyone has raved about ever since they laid eyes on him some five years ago.
In cricket or for that matter any ball sport, it’s not often the magnitude of your success that defines “talent”. It’s more the aesthetics. It’s the way you get your runs than how much you get. It’s the reason Mark Waugh was always considered more talented than Steve Waugh, and the same reason why the world desperately seeks for Rohit Sharma to stay in longer at the crease regardless of how many he scores but very matter-of-factly expects Cheteshwar Pujara to do so without much fuss.
It’s just a quirk of the human brain and often has nothing to do with the calibre of the player.
The third boundary was slightly more disdainful as he whipped a length delivery from Dinda, and even lifted his front-foot to add some Caribbean flavour. Then came the fifth, where it was all hands, and even if the ball did travel slightly in the air, he had picked his spot so well and again had enough time to place the ball where he wanted to. Just like that Sanju had raced to 23 off his first 10 deliveries.
If you ever wondered why everyone gets frustrated with Samson, you just had to see the shot he played in Delhi’s opening game after having gotten his eye in. Neither the situation nor the ability he holds dictated for him to go for it. But he did, just like he has on many occasions before. Talent is a dangerous thing to have in sport. What it does lead to is expectation, and often you find everybody else expecting you to do well, and graduate quicker than probably you yourself do. It’s been a case with Sanju for most parts of his career, and especially this past season. Till a couple of months back, his career was in a tailspin. He was at wars with his state team. He’d stopped keeping wickets…..he was no longer the There were allegations of abandoning the team and him spending hours brooding on the Marine Drive promenade to asking for an injury break just so that he couldn’t be dropped. And he averaged 30.36 after starting the Ranji season off with a big century. And what he did against Bangalore was what his detractors have come to expect from him. He threw his wicket away.
After the flurry of boundaries at the start, the Pune leg-spinners began stalling his runs. This was the danger period for him. The point at which he generally would have gone for a wild heave and wasted what had been a great start. But instead, Samson for once chose to buckle down like he’s never done before in the IPL. The next 21 balls only produced 31 runs. But now Samson was past 50, and nobody clapped louder than coach Rahul Dravid.
SS, the next MS
If you ever wondered why everyone thinks Samson is the front-runner to fit into that MS Dhoni-sized hole that will appear in the Indian middle-order once the former captain eventually retires, you just had to see the final flourish of his innings. And once he was past 50, and seen Dravid’s acknowledgement, it was like a fire was lit for Sanju. The next 17 balls saw him score 48 runs, and they included shots, some mighty hits over the straight field including a length ball that was launched with a horizontal bat over long-off off Dinda, and a cute dab past the short fine-leg fielder after he’d exposed all his stumps. This was Sanju in free flow, showing just why he still could be the one replacing Dhoni behind the stumps eventually even at a time the likes of Rishabh Pant are making headlines more routinely.