“You need that kind of shot-making ability” at the T20 World Cup in Australia later this year, says the India captain
“That guy has got talent, man.”
“I mean whenever we have seen him bat, he has just produced an innings where everyone goes over the moon watching that innings. He has got the skillset to succeed.”
Instead, the year is 2022, and Rohit, now having gone through that process of translating talent into runs, is saying this about someone. You must take notice.
“His back-foot play is superb,” Rohit said on the eve of the first game of the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka. “Some of the shots you might have seen in the IPL, the pick-up pull, the cut shots, standing and delivering over the bowler’s head. Those kind of shots are not easy to play. And I believe when you go to Australia [where the next T20 World Cup is], you need that kind of shot-making ability.
“Samson definitely has it in him. I just wish him the best and hope that he utilises his potential to the maximum.”
Samson has played ten T20Is and an ODI for India over a span of six years. He played four of these as part of a second-string side that went to Sri Lanka last year. His highest score in the 11 internationals is 46. At domestic level, he is not quite the rounded batter that Rohit was in first-class cricket, but he is different gravy in T20 cricket. He gets T20 cricket, and he has shown he has the skillset of doing some really difficult things in T20 cricket. That’s why, despite not having great traditional numbers, Samson is rated.
“We see a lot of potential, we see a lot of talent, and we see a lot of match-winning ability in that individual. I hope we give him the confidence whenever he gets the opportunity to play for us. I hope he understands that”
Rohit Sharma on Sanju Samson
“That is the whole point about this sport,” Rohit said. “A lot of people have the skillset, a lot of people have the talent. But it’s how you utilise that talent that is the most critical part. I think it’s up to Sanju now to understand how he wants to utilise the talent and how he can maximise it.
“Because as a team, as a team management, we see a lot of potential, we see a lot of talent, and we see a lot of match-winning ability in that individual. I hope we give him the confidence whenever he gets the opportunity to play for us. I hope he understands that. Definitely he is in consideration [for Australia], which is why he is part of the team.”
As Samson makes his comeback, these words must really buoy him. At the same time, you wonder if the lack of patience in the past has deflated him. For the way Samson plays, it comes with an inherent risk. To do the things he does, you need to play low-percentage cricket. To be able to do that, the team has to live with early dismissals.
The last time Samson played in a full-strength Indian side, the message was to be aggressive right from the start, but that kind of batting needs backing and security and sometimes doesn’t come off in the first series. He found himself out after that.
Now, the captain and the chairman of selectors have publicly backed Samson and brought him back despite there being two wicketkeepers – plus KL Rahul – in the set-up already. If it translates into role clarity and chances in the middle, this might just be Samson’s best chance to build an international career.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo