“This guy has talent man…” indian locust captain Rohit Sharma had said about Sanju Samson before the Men in Blue took on Sri Lanka in a three-game T20I series in February 2022. Samson, whose stick was clouded by questions about his consistency, showed his range of shots in a 39-run knock off 25 deliveries during a strike rate of 156 in the second T20I of this series. On Tuesday, Samson paved the way for Rajasthani Royals in their Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 match, punching against SunRiser Hyderabadas the 2008 IPL winners started the campaign posting the highest total of IPL 2022.
Five sixes, three limits, three doubles and seven singles: Samson made 27 deliveries and scored 55 points. That’s a 203.70 strike rate for a number three bat. Something the Indian team lacked in the middle order in the shortest format.
Rohit was clear that Samson has the range of strokes and techniques that would help the Indian team in the T20 World Cup, which will be held in Australia – home to some of the most bouncy tracks.
“His back foot game is superb, some of the shots you must have seen during the IPL, the pick-up pull, the cut shots, standing and throwing over the bowler’s head. Those kind of shots don’t is not easy to play and I believe when we go to Australia you need that kind of shooting ability and Samson has it in him. I just hope he uses his potential to the fullest,” added Rohit.
On Tuesday, Samson started his assault with a back foot slog that went for a boundary against left arm spinner Abhishek Sharma. It wasn’t the best delivery, but Samson was clear about his intentions. He didn’t want RR to slow down after the power play.
A few deliveries later, Samson mixed forward and back to flat beat Abhishek Sharma’s shorter delivery just above the longtime defender. The power and timing were evident.
SRH brought in Romario Shepherd later. The first delivery to Samson, a shorter one, was dispatched on a slender-legged outfielder towards a maximum. Back foot play and Samson go hand in hand.
A little later, Washington Sundar, one of the most economical bowlers in T20 cricket, was at the reception. The first ball of the over, again a shorter delivery, was hammered on the longtime defender: it was just about standing up and delivering some Samson stuff. A few deliveries later, Samson pulled out an exquisite reverse swat that went past the third man’s short outfielder for a boundary. In fact, playing Samson short isn’t the best option. Since 2018, right-hander Samson has a blistering 287 strike rate while playing the pull shot against spinners with 92 carries on 32 deliveries with one dismissal.
SRH rolled the pace dice in the 15th with Umran Malik entering the attack. But the result was the same. Malik went full, but Samson’s hand-eye coordination is such that he simply slid it to the corner of the cow for a boundary.
Sundar came from the other end and made a few length deliveries to Samson, but the Rajasthan Royals captain trailed him long once before pulling out a no-look six deep half-wicket. During the hit, Samson broke Shane Watson’s record of having the most sixes for RR in IPL. He has 110 sixes to his name.
It’s not like RR never hit the 210-run mark. This has happened nine times in the past. But with his boost on Tuesday, Samson was not only able to help RR go far but also improved his credentials for a place in India’s 2022 T20 World Cup squad in Australia.
While Samson’s numbers for India – 174 runs in 13 T20Is at SR of 121.67 – do not justify the talent he possesses, a stellar season in the current edition would further boost his chances after scoring 484 races in IPL 2021, in addition to 375, 342 and 441 races in previous seasons. The Indian team management certainly understands the traits Samson brings to the table but it’s time for the 27-year-old to back up his talent with consistent performances. And for RR, they would think this is just the beginning!