Saturday, Oct 25, 2014

IPL 7: Bred on T20, will Sanju Samson scale up to long-form cricket?

Samson's batting is like a little fireworks display; dramatic, eye-catching and brief but that is also the nature of the game he is playing. (IPL/BCCI) Samson's batting is like a little fireworks display; dramatic, eye-catching and brief but that is also the nature of the game he is playing. (IPL/BCCI)
Written by Harsha Bhogle | Posted: May 9, 2014 1:53 am | Updated: May 9, 2014 4:20 pm

With some players, one shot is all it takes to catch the eye. With Tendulkar it was a straight drive in March 1989 at the Wankhede Stadium. It was a Ranji Trophy semi-final against Delhi and a boy was playing like he belonged in a world of men. With Ganguly it was a square drive at the Eden Gardens a year later. It was a Ranji Trophy final and he was on debut. With Sanju Samson it was a cover drive in an IPL game in Jaipur in 2013.

We didn’t know much about this young man and then suddenly, he played this shot. Everyone in the commentary box stopped what they were doing.

So have I just put a young man only recently out of under-19 cricket in the company of two greats? I don’t know if the word will one day be placed alongside his name but he had a similar effect with the first shot I saw. And since then I look forward to his presence at the crease. And almost inevitably he plays a shot that warms my heart.

I want to see more. I want to see him batting when the ball is swinging and seaming around and testing his defence. I want to see him on a turner taking on two accurate spinners. I want to see so much more. All I have seen so far is him batting in T20 cricket but I know I am seeing someone very special. So far his batting is a bit like a little fireworks display; dramatic, eye-catching and brief but that is also the nature of the game he is playing. He will block a couple and suddenly he will launch one off the front foot over mid-wicket. Most times, it will be the shot you will remember at the end of the match.

I notice with some satisfaction that he has four first class hundreds in thirteen matches but I am uncertain of what the best scales are to weigh him in. For years, we have looked at players playing their formative years in long-form cricket, growing up hearing of the legend of test cricket and having local heroes with good first-class records. But Samson is the first of a new generation that has grown up watching the IPL; who, in their impressionable years, saw India win a World T20; who are influenced by auctions and retentions. Even Virat Kohli, who called someone a youngster the other day, would have been influenced by fifty overs and four-day cricket as a young man. Samson will be the first of a generation of players who will have to scale up to continued…

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