Though the 27-year-old couldn’t take India over the line, he scored a blazing half-century in the first ODI in Lucknow. Importantly, his unbeaten 63-ball 86 got the cricketing fraternity talking about whether he merited a place in that World Cup squad.
While the effortlessness with which he clears the ropes have won Samson admirers, his penchant to go for the big shots too early in his innings has often led to his downfall, leaving many disappointed. But against South Africa, he showed that he had the patience to bide his time before unleashing himself.
A top-order batsman for Kerala and Rajasthan Royals, Sanju showed that he can also adapt to the requirements of a No.6 batter on a pitch offering some seam movement and turn. His innings wasn’t without flaws.
Sanju was guilty of not farming the strike towards the end overs when the tailenders came into bat, but his thinking was crystal clear.
Sanju Samson (AP Photo)
“I love spending time at the wicket, especially in India colours. We play to win the match. I fell short by just two shots, one four and a six. Shamsi was proving a little expensive so we thought we can target him. I knew he had one over left so if we needed 24 runs, I was confident that I could hit four sixes. So, I was taking it deep. That was our plan,” he said.
Former India U-19 player Raiphi Vincent Gomez, with whom Sanju spends a lot of time training back home in Thiruvananthapuram, rates his former teammate’s knock as his best in India colours.
“He showed great maturity. Once he hit Shamsi for a six off his first ball in the final over, the South Africans appeared rattled even though we had another 24 to get. They feared Sanju might pull it off. That shows how much Sanju has evolved as a player and how much the opposition dreads him,” said Raiphi.
Gomez, who now coaches Puducherry in the domestic circuit, also gave an insight into Sanju’s training methods.
“We try to improve his contact points (point at which the ball hits the bat) while batting. It’s a crucial area to work on for a strokemaker like Sanju. We try to simulate different match situations so that he can figure out the kind of shots he wants to play during the game,” said Raiphi.