AS the India A players began to troop out of the MA Chidambaram stadium after a gruelling practice session on Wednesday, Sanju Samson continued to stand inside the training arena, waiting for the assistant coach Abhay Sharma.
It was Samson the wicketkeeper, and not the batsman, who wanted some additional practice time.
It’s an understandable desire. There has been great buzz about his batting abilities but if he wants to realise his dream of consistently playing for India he has to improve his keeping skills.
Some experts believe that the fame and buzz about his batting ended up causing a bit of a dent in his overall approach. He grew ever more reluctant to keep and started to focus on his batting. So much so that he stopped keeping in domestic cricket.
In the last Ranji season, the former India wicketkeeper and now a coach Chandrakant Pandit was surprised when he didn’t see Samson behind the stumps on the field.
“I called him and asked why is he not keeping? I knew that he was reluctant to keep wickets but I convinced him that if you want to go high in cricket, climb the ladder, don’t take the lift. He needs to work very, very hard on keeping, if he wants to play big cricket,” Pandit says.
Pandit believes that one should not label Samson only a T20 or one-day specialist wicket-keeper. Time is such that opportunity can knock anytime and the former India A coach feels the young boy should be ready for it. Pandit also believes that Samson needs to work on his temperament.
“He needs to work on his consistency and at the same time on temperament. Sometimes he gets carried away. I have told him to be a calculative cricketer, take risk but be calculative. He is lucky to get more opportunities but he will have to find answers soon for his consistency,” Pandit adds.
The numbers from the last domestic season support Pandit’s observation. In 11 innings in the Ranji Trophy for Kerala, he scored 475 runs; 207 runs had come in one innings against Services. In the domestic one-dayers, he made only 55 runs in four games at an average of 13.75. He made his India debut in a T20 game against Zimbabwe.
At 20, Kerala, who don’t have many cricketers to boast of, have already made him the next Tendulkar. Pandit urges that Samson needs to stay grounded, analyze himself and should know what his role is as a player.
“If he can work on his keeping it will help him more. Keeping in T20 is easy, a keeper gets not more than 20 balls in an entire game and looking at the recent trend, batsman who can stand behind, have been given the place in the side.”
A temporary high
India A begin their campaign on Friday and Samson will look for another turn around in his career. There has been a great amount of spotlight on him thanks to IPL but the youngster should know by now that it can be a temporary high at best.
Pandit doesn’t beat about the bush.
“If he plays for India one day, it will because of his wicket-keeping first. He will be picked because he is a batsman-keeper. Opportunity can come any moment but for that one has to grab it. Luck has been kind now but who knows what is store ahead. These India A games are great chances to improve your confidence but as I said key for him will be consistency in batting and his keeping.”