Easy power is a rare quality among batsmen. It isn’t the same as timing. There are many who can find the middle of the bat more often than not. But only a few can make the ball spring off into the distance with what seems like minimal effort. Such players don’t need to hoick, they don’t necessarily have the biggest built, rather they hold their position and send the ball a mile with simply an elegant extension of a routine drive.
Rohit Sharma is one such player who showcases easy power consistently. AB de Villiers doesn’t use brute force either. And one other player who finds his name on this exclusive list is Sanju Samson. He doesn’t yet have the achievements of these stalwarts, but the extraordinary ball-striking ability he possesses is unmistakable.
In Rajasthan Royals’ victory against Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League on Tuesday, Samson played a game-changing knock of 74 runs off 32 balls. The standout feature of his innings was the six-hitting exhibition he put on... the ease with which he ended up hitting nine sixes.
Agreed, some of the deliveries he put away were right under his nose. But that’s not the point. The thing about Samson’s batting that makes one pause and reflect is the poise with which he does it. His talent can help one gain perspective. It can make two-time World Cup-winner Gautam Gambhir tweet this: “Sanju Samson is not just the best wicketkeeper batsmen in India but the best young batsman in India!”
Against CSK, Samson showed just how devastating he can be. He started off by pulling Sam Curran and Deepak Chahar nonchalantly for maximums, before driving Ravindra Jadeja and Piyush Chawla over the rope repeatedly. It didn’t matter where the ball pitched, all he needed was that clean swing of the bat to send it deep into the stands.
His innings put Rajasthan Royals well on top and they didn’t let go of the advantage till the end.
For all his talent though, Samson isn’t really a player who comes to mind when one thinks of the best batsmen in India currently. When he’s on song, playing those delightful strokes, you can sense that aura about him. You know you’re watching a big player. But that aura is missing when he walks out to the crease. He isn’t exactly a marquee player and the reason for that, of course, is his inconsistency.
Having made his IPL debut in 2013, Samson has crossed the 400-run mark in just one season. Time and again he has delivered the odd breathtaking knock, but there hasn’t been much to back it up. The fact that he has two centuries to his name shows he has more than just cameos to him. But to elevate his status, he needs to do a lot more than just offer flashes of brilliance.
Sanju Samson's IPL batting record
With Mahendra Singh Dhoni officially retiring from international cricket, the search for a long-term occupant of the wicketkeeper’s slot in India’s limited-overs sides is on. KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant are the front-runners at the moment but Samson must surely be a part of this race too.
While none of the three are exceptional keepers, Rahul is clearly good enough to make the teams purely as a batsman. Samson must then believe he can edge out Pant for the second keeper’s slot based on their batting.
A massive IPL season would undoubtedly help his cause. Not the 200s or 300s he’s used to getting, the 25-year-old must aim for much higher. He needs to get close to the top of the batting charts. He needs to make a statement.
The start Samson has got with his knock against Chennai Super Kings is a great platform for him to build on. He played three T20 Internationals earlier this year – one against Sri Lanka and two in New Zealand – and couldn’t get a double-digit score in any of them. But a strong showing in the IPL will be a timely reminder that he’s worth investing in.
“Sanju Samson played an unbelievable knock,” Rajasthan Royals captain Steve Smith, one of the finest batsmen of this generation, said after Tuesday’s game. “Felt like everything he was hitting went for six. I was just giving Sanju strike, wasn’t I? He was middling everything. I hope this sets him up for a big IPL.”
Samson and India will hope Smith is right.