Sanju Samson
Rajasthan Royals skipper Sanju Samson in action against the Sunrisers Hyderabad during the IPL match in Dubai on September 27, 2021. Image Credit: ANI

Sanju Samson is a strong man with bulging biceps and broad shoulders. But he’s not strong enough to carry the Rajasthan Royals batting alone all the time. When the captain is in his elements, Rajasthan post healthy totals, and when he’s not, they collapse in a heap.

More than anyone, Samson is aware of this reality. Rajasthan’s batting was powerful when Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes were around, and they had put several famed IPL attacks to sword. In their absence, Samson has to carry the batting. Alone.

Evin Lewis and Liam Livingstone had a hot streak in The Hundred in England, but they could not recreate the form in IPL 2021. As a result, Samson has to shoulder the responsibility of keeping Rajasthan afloat.

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He’s fully aware that his early dismissal would result in below-par scores for Rajasthan. So Samson is forced to curb his attacking instincts in the middle overs to provide the momentum in the slog overs. We saw that in the last two matches when Samson struck an unbeaten 70 against the Delhi Capitals and an 82 in the Sunrisers Hyderabad game.

But then that’s not his game. Samson loves to ride his luck and blast sixes around the stadium. The audacious strokeplay has brought him hordes of supporters, especially from his home state of Kerala. But there’s an inherent flaw. Such aggression is fraught with inconsistency. That’s a whip Samson’s critics use to lash him. That’s also the reason for his sporadic appearances in Indian colours.

Slow, steady and the slog overs

Samson’s strokeplay may no longer be breathtaking, but it’s breathing new life into the Rajasthan batting. That’s allowed other batsmen to play around him. But it’s not good enough to rack up huge scores to challenge the rivals. In the slog, big shots have to come from both ends, or teams could end up with insufficient totals.

Take the Hyderabad game, for example. Rajasthan’s returns from the slog overs were so bad that the target was never as big as the promise. So captain Kane Williamson could steer Hyderabad to a win without taking undue risks. Another 20 runs may have forced them to hurry. Who knows, that haste could bring a couple of wickets and pressure to choke Hyderabad.

Well, that didn’t happen. Rajasthan didn’t have the runs, and new Hyderabad opener Jason Roy’s early assault ensured that the scoring rate was well in control.

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Back to Samson. The new controlled aggression is helping Rajasthan, although the playoff qualification is in grave doubt. But the new batting avatar may help Samson to resurrect his international career. And that’s not easy, given the sheer array of talent jostling for a middle-order slot.

Samson’s failures in Sri Lanka had kept him out of India’s T20 World Cup squad at a time when Suryakumar Yadav and Ishan Kishan made the selection cut despite their recent dismal form. That’s simply because Yadav and Kishan sparkled on the international stage despite the limited opportunities. There lies the lesson for Samson.

Runs, more precisely centuries, matter. Selectors are not like supporters. They have to be reminded all the time. Tall scores will be a constant reminder. That requires consistency. A quality that Samson’s controlled aggression could bring.

More power to his big biceps.