If you’re a 22-year old wicket-keeper batsman and enjoy Rahul Dravid’s confidence, you’ve got to be special. Period. Thus, we blindly believed Sanju Samson had the talent and temperament, flashed of which he displayed back in 2013, when he first turned up for the Rajasthan Royals. One glimpse at the diminutive lad and spotless technique, great balance, a wide array of shots off the front as well as the back foot, calm and shy demeanour and a hunger to excel at the highest level were evident. However, a promising IPL season later, the runs dried up. And with those runs, news updates too. For the quintessential Cricket fan who digs deep for updates, it was disappointing. A teenager who started off looking promising would forlorn into oblivion, people thought. And then, a certain Rahul Dravid, the wall of India, took the lad, now 22, under his wings. And then the turnaround.
As Sunil Gavaskar put it in the post-match studio program, there’s a bit of Mahela Jayawardene in the youngster. He drives off the front-foot with aplomb ; punches off the back-foot with grace; cuts audaciously, pulls classically and looks a flamboyant batsman when in full flow. In the era of wild-slogging and relentless flailing, here’s a youngster who loves to stay textbook, and still score runs – as many as hundred, off sixty-two balls. An overwhelming feat, indeed. So overwhelmed was Samson himself, that he fell short of words during the mid-inning interview with Isha Guha – he only managed to thank Rahul Dravid, to whom he says he owes a lot, and for obvious reasons. Rahul Dravid, the great Indian batsman, has been doing exceedingly well with youngsters. Samson’s knock was evidence enough of the hard work Rahul Dravid’s been putting in.
For the prolific under-19 run scorer, this was his first IPL hundred and shall surely rank as the innings of his life, for this one came against a bowling attack led by Ben Stokes and Imran Tahir, all established international names. The hallmark of yesterday’s innings lied in the fact that Samson never looked in trouble and never brought the scoring rate down. He drove the Delhi Daredevils to a humongous 206, thanks to a late, unbelievable cameo by Chris Morris, who eventually won the game by 97 runs, one of the biggest victories in the IPL.
Under pressure to turn around the poor run he had during the last season, Samson finally came of age and lived up to his potential. Talking about maturity, a flurry of boundaries took Samson to 36 off 21 balls. And then when Rahane, the stand-in skipper, brought in Tahir, Samson dropped his head down and scored 12 of the next 12, only to accelerate later. This calculative effort ensured that the young batting line-up got the platform it needed and could later capitalise on it to put a humongous total. Chris Morris got the freedom to walk in and simply bludgeon the Pune attack to take the total to 206.
We hope Samson continues his form through-out the IPL, because he is an important player not just in the context of the IPL, but Indian Cricket in general. The legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni is, with age, waning away and sooner than later, India will be in need of a wicket-keeper batsman!