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Sanju_Samson_IPL_Rajasthan_Royals_India_CricketIn November 2018, Sanju Samson will turn 24. He has been on the cricketing circuit since he was 16, making his first class debut in 2011.

Ever since he was a teenager, he had been swatting aside fast bowlers and stepping out to spinners. We have seen the result of this practice. We know what happens when he lifts one down the ground.

That’s what he does for a living. That’s what he loves doing.

Like many talented batting prodigies, Samson chose cricket as his path in life from a very young age. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t have. His coaches and those who played with him all noted that he loved batting.

 

Forget the slashing hard at balls outside off and those customary elegant on-drives. To this date, in a country no stranger to names that have left indelible impression on the domestic circuit, Samson holds a unique record: He is the youngest ever captain of a Ranji side. That landmark achievement came when he captained Kerala at the age of 20, having represented the side since he was 13.

 

He played 50-over domestic tournaments in most corners of the country. Most kids at 13 have their heads buried in comic books and find excuses to miss tuitions.

Samson started out on Thiruvananthapuram’s green patches, toiling under the sun, perfecting the forward defense, learning to balance between the front-foot and back-foot stroke-making.

He went on to play vice-captain in a triangular Under-19 series held in Australia in 2013. That same year, he debuted in the IPL. For most experienced players at the tail end of their careers, playing in the IPL is a mark on bucket list they absolutely want to tick. For youngsters, it is a near sure-shot ticket to enter Indian cricket.

 

In his debut season for the Rajasthan Royals, he became the youngest IPL batsman to score a fifty. Then 18, he smashed Royal Challengers Bangalore on his way to a memorable half century.

 

Samson was already rubbing shoulders with greats from around the world and ‘would-be’ stars of Indian cricket. There was Chahal. There were the Pandya brothers. Four years later, by the time the 2017 season came about, Samson had completed 1000 IPL runs, becoming the youngest batsman in the IPL to do so; a feat that hasn’t yet been broken and may not be in the next couple of editions.

Between 2013 and 2017 three familiar names who had made news in the IPL made their ODI debuts for team India. Hardik Pandya made it to the ODIs in October 2016 aged 23. Kuldeep Yadav made it to the ODIs in June 2017 while Yuzvendra Chahal made it through in June 2016.

The trio has already played its respective part in accentuating the “Bleed Blue” effect for 38, 20 and 23 contests respectively. Moreover, all three have made their T20 debuts and two out of three- Pandya and Yadav- have even appeared in Tests.

But where is Sanju Samson, the scorer of 2,600 first-class runs, compiler of 9 hundreds and collector of over 1,700 IPL runs?

 

If success in the IPL was the benchmark required to open the window for inducting new names into the national side, then ignoring Samson is irrational.

 

We live in interesting times indeed. T20 performances and little domestic record can warrant a space on the national team to talent. How else are we to note Hardik Pandya’s justification in a Test side but Samson’s failure to represent India in any ODI competition?

There’s never a doubt about the trio’s talent- but there must have been some grave doubt about Samson’s abilities to collect runs quickly. After all, he bats at a strike rate of 128 in the IPL. How can we pardon this sin?

But team India will ignore him. He was awarded the rare honour of playing 1 T20 contest, in which he scored 19 runs. Even if it was the second-highest in a side that lost to Zimbabwe, following Uthappa’s counter-attack.

Instead India will afford someone like Stuart Binny, Samson’s former contemporary at Rajasthan- the privilege of playing 6 Tests, 14 ODIs and 3 T20s.

The Kerala batsman, it must not be forgotten, doubles up as a keeper, and boasts the technical proficiency of a skilled young player.

 

Where has Samson, just 23, lacked? Sherlock wouldn’t be able to solve this problem. He picked up runs under Dravid, contributed handsomely alongside Rahane as opener and is now arguably the Royals’ go-to man in a side that has struggled to chase 152 from 120 deliveries.

 

At all this time, in the only visible platform for showing people what he can offer, Samson is doing what he can. Keeping his head down, picking up the bat and plundering runs.

His scores so far aren’t a cause of disappointment for Rajasthan Royals, are they? 49 against SRH. 37 against Delhi Daredevils. 52 against Mumbai Indians. 40 against Sunrisers again. And an unbeaten 92 against Bangalore.

Too shallow to be ever considered ‘useful’ for an India that plays T20s all throughout the year, isn’t it?

 

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