Sanju Samson
Rajasthan Royals’ captain Sanju Samson in action during the Indian Premier League match against Gujarat Titans in Jaipur on April 10, 2024. Samson has been in fine form, scoring four fifties and leading Rajasthan to the top of the points table. Image Credit: AFP

The T20 World Cup 2024 starts on June 1, and all eyes are on the composition of the Indian team. The announcement is expected any minute. Unusually, there’s plenty of suspense surrounding the squad selection. Will Shubman Gill make way for Yashashvi Jaiswal? Can Ruturaj Gaiwad find a spot? Will Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul retain their places?

One of the much-awaited questions is: Will Sanju Samson finally gain a place in India’s World Cup squad? Why is it? That’s because he’s had far too many misses.

Indian cricket has a love-hate relationship with Samson. All former cricketers are in awe of his effortless strokes, immaculate timing and thundering sixes. But when the Indian white-ball cricket teams are unveiled, the Rajasthan Royals captain’s name is often missing, barring for a few bilateral series.

Samson’s aggression and lack of consistency

The usual reasons include too much aggression and lack of consistency, which is baffling since the two are contradictory. White-ball cricket calls for aggression right from the powerplay. So in the quest for a higher scoring rate, batters put less value on their wickets, and consistency suffers. It’s a reality. But Samson’s detractors used it to justify his exclusion from the national side.

Rewind to the 20233 Twenty20 World Cup in Australia. Former India head coach Ravi Shastri had said Samson would be the best bet given the conditions in Australia. “Samson will always threaten there. He can win you a match,” he said, adding that the Kerala batter has “the shots more than any other Indian” on Australian pitches.

We know how what happened: Samson missed the World Cup bus. The Rajasthan Royals captain got a few chances in a few bilateral series, but his form was patchy. That’s bound to happen when a cricketer gets an odd match or two; he will be under pressure to score in the limited opportunities. Yet Samson has played some good innings, which went unnoticed despite being shunted up and down the middle order.

The century in South Africa

The South Africa tour in December was a turning point for Samson. With India struggling at 101-3, he stepped up at No. 3 and steered the team to a series victory. The Boland Park wicket was tricky, but Samson showed remarkable resilience, curbing his early aggression and unleashing it later in the innings. His first international century was a fitting response to his critics, showcasing his ability to bounce back and perform under pressure.

Samson’s batting in IPL 2024 has been consistent. He’s yet to score a century this season but has weighed in with knocks that lifted Rajasthan Royals to the top of the points table. There you have it: the consistency. That too at the No. 3 spot.

Now reports say the IPL form won’t be a guide for Indian selectors, while other countries could use the tournament form to select their squads. If that’s used to keep out Samson, the same yardstick should also be used for Rishabh Pant. The Delhi Capitals captain showed that he’s fully recovered from a grievous injury with a string of fine scores. He deserves a place in the Indian team based on his current form.

Why KL Rahul is a constant in Indian team

KL Rahul remains India’s No.1 wicketkeeper in white-ball cricket based on his impressive batting and wealth of experience. So Pant could come in only as the second wicketkeeper. Where does that leave Samson? Third wicketkeeper? Unlikely.

So, where could Samson fit in? He could potentially secure a spot as a batsman. However, the No.3 position is occupied by Virat Kohli, followed by Suryakumar Yadav and Rahul. If Samson is to find a place, it would have to be at the expense of Rahul, which seems unlikely, considering the Indian team management's preference for experience.

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The late middle-order is occupied by Hardik Pandya, followed by the bowlers. So even if Samson makes the squad, breaking into the playing eleven will be difficult, even as a batter. Such is the surfeit of talent in the Indian team.

Let’s wait and see if Samson is selected for the squad. His inclusion in India’s World Cup team could add strength and depth and to the batting. His claims can’t be overlooked this time.