May 10, 2013

Three to watch

As ever, the IPL has thrown up a few notable young players. Here's a look at the pick of this year's crop

The IPL trophy has a wonderful line inscribed on it. "Where talent meets opportunity," it says, and it is a thought I wish many institutions believed in.

But what the IPL can do is to provide the platform, offer the opportunity; it cannot do more. It is up to talent to make the most of the meeting provided. And year upon year, we look at people who might have made the most of the opportunity. Players have looked promising, even dazzled briefly, but haven't always managed to repeat their success, and that, really, is the true determinant of class.

Ability in Twenty20 need not translate into success at one-day cricket, let alone in Test cricket, but what it must do, at the very least, is to ensure repeat performances in T20 cricket. That is what players like Siddharth Trivedi and Rajat Bhatia do, and that is admirable enough.

Given that, and given that teams have now played three quarters of their games, I am happy to put forward my nominations for the year. I am picking three players whom I hope I will see a lot more of in the days ahead. They have looked very good in T20 cricket but there is something about them that suggests they have a future in the longer forms, and that has been a factor in nominating them.

Amid a crop of young Indian medium-pacers, Mohit Sharma has stood out. At first sight there is little about him that is dramatic: he does not have the prodigious swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, not the bounce and vigour that had once marked Ishant Sharma as someone special, nor the obvious pace of Umesh Yadav. You would almost look at him and say: we've seen him before. But game after game, he has bowled within the Powerplay overs, has bowled to some of the world's best, and has been in the contest.

His first-class record is impressive (44 wickets from 11 Ranji Trophy games and good economy rates in one-day and T20 cricket) and, at 24, he is now the right age for a new-ball bowler. There is a bunch of those at the moment and almost all of them have been erratic, and that is a cautionary signal (top of mind: MS Gony, Jaydev Unadkat, Shami Ahmed, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sudeep Tyagi). Last year Harshal Patel of RCB looked impressive, and Siddarth Kaul has looked good in the few opportunities he has had, but Mohit Sharma has been consistent and his captain, MS Dhoni, is not one to pick players idly.

I must confess I am more excited about the next two. There is something about a legspinner that makes you stop and watch. Even in a community the members of which must have a trick up their sleeve every time, the legspinner stands apart because he plies a difficult trade. He must have turn, he must get bounce; nip off the track is a basic necessity; he must bowl the googly and the straight ball, whether flipper or topspinner (or both ideally). It is not a profession you would recommend to most, and so most good legspinners must revel in the challenge. Karan Sharma looks like he does too.

Ability in T20 need not translate into success at one-day cricket, let alone in Test cricket, but what it must do, at the very least, is to ensure repeat performances in T20 cricket

His is a busy action and it contributes to every delivery and he makes batsmen hurry their shots. But most important, he seems to have the big legbreak. I am exercising caution here because you don't get to see enough in T20, where you don't get to set up a batsman as much; but there is great ability there.* Indian cricket will let itself down if Karan is allowed to get lost.

And then, this young kid from Kerala. There is a boyishness to Sanju Samson that is somehow rare in 18-year-olds. There is a bravado in him that is characteristic of his age, and which you saw in his innings of 63 from 41 balls in a chase of 171 against Royal Challengers. But he is also intelligent enough to adapt, and I particularly enjoyed his 36-ball 40 on a slow track at Eden Gardens against Knight Riders. And then he came out at No. 6 in a tough chase against Pune Warriors in Jaipur. Twenty-nine were needed from 17 balls in a must-win game and even two or three balls poorly played could have shifted the balance.

Brad Hodge had just been out to Wayne Parnell and as Samson took guard I wondered if his captain was asking just a bit too much of him. Then he played a cover drive off the first ball and in our commentary box there was a collective gasp. He had played it easily, like he was plucking a flower. Everything about the shot was right; a master would have been proud to have played it, and in the context of the game it was exceptional. One shot doesn't tell you a story, and we must be conscious of that, but it can point to more, and that is why I will be turning to the scorecard every time Kerala play next year. I can see why Rahul Dravid has said Samson has a long way to go (expectation and too much attention can ruin talent) and that is a judgement we must respect, but this kid can bat!

Right, then, those are my three names. Hopefully they will be better next year, hopefully they will be free of injury, and hopefully they can keep their focus on what has been good for them so far. As for us, we can only wait and see.

Harsha Bhogle is a commentator, television presenter and writer. He is currently contracted to the BCCI. His Twitter feed is here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 13, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    Csk has a good young fast bowler in holder he is still learning the skills but gona be a beast soon as he as develop those skills. The ipl is a barn for young cricket talent to show their stuff and that's exceptional about the ipl as on a giving day a cricketer can play against top players that they normally would have not unless they are playing on an international stage.

  • Dummy4 on May 12, 2013, 22:37 GMT

    paul valthaty, swapnil asnodkar, mandeep singh, ambati raydu, rahul sharma, jigindar sharma, parvinder awana, ms gony and many other names came in IPL and gone, some got chance in team India but they could'nt capitalized...

  • randolf on May 12, 2013, 2:56 GMT

    Yogi108, I hope that Tendulkar does not say that Sanju Sampson reminds him (Sachin) of himself. Because, what I've seen so far, it is not true! Sampson is MUCH MORE CLASS THAN THAT! He seems to be in the class of the Sobers' and Lara's. Hence, I don't think that Alan Wilkins is doing Sanju genuine justice, if he said that Sanju reminds him (Mr Wilkins) of Sachin - that is, based on the Sanju that I've seen so far. But suppose Bradman did say that Tendulkar reminds him of himself, as the Indian fans have been claiming? Was Mr Bradman referring to the way that Tendulkar prepares before a match? Or the way he runs in the wicket? Or the way he takes a steepling catch? Or the way that he dresses himself? If I accept the saying, then I need to know what aspect of Bradman he said Sachin reminds himself of. It's surely not his batting, because Bradman' batting at age 40 was very similar to his batting at age 24!

  • IndTheBest on May 12, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    Sanju Samson and Sandeep Sharma(1) (KXIP) are my pick. It was easy for every one to ignore Sandeep Sharma as he didn't play in IPL till now. He impressed every one in his very first game and had very successful Ranji. Sandeep infact can out perform likes of B Kumar and P Kumar. Jiwanjot Singh of Panjub opener is another guy to watch out who is not playing IPL for god knows what is the reason!

  • raghu on May 11, 2013, 22:04 GMT

    @alarky Your comment screams ignorance. If you are trying to undermine Sachin, you have failed. Sanju might be a good player, but saying he has more class than the current "No.4" is plain foolish. Everyone has seen Rohit Sharma play, he is extremely inconstant. He has been given plenty of chances but has never capitalized. In 83 ODIs if a player has 30 average he is below average batsmen. He plays well in IPLs but I'm not amused by his contributions to the Indian team. Getting Sanju in the national team when he has hardly played any domestic cricket is silly as we don't know enough about him (remember Paul Valthaty?, some sink like him after a good series). Maybe someday he will play for India, but not till he is groomed well.

  • Jason on May 11, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    Sanju Samson is the obvious pick for everyone!!! The best thing about him is that he is very modest n grounded unlike the other prodigy's like Kohli, Vijay etc!!! I m hoping that sanju delivers the knockout punch and gets into the Indian Team. Afterall we need a man of the masses after God Of Cricket completely retires!! Coincidently Alan Wilkins had mentioned tat samson reminds him about a yound Sachin. Hope Sachin sees in Sanju what Bradman saw in Sachin!!! Till then all hail Sanju Samson!! Hoping he is the future of Indian Cricket!!!

  • Dummy4 on May 11, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    Excellent choice by Harsha...Mohit Sharma & Sanju Samson are my picks ; considering their IPL performance till now. We always needed young fast bowlers & Mohit can delver that (especially bcoz he is with CSK & MSD will mould him like he did to Jadeja, Ashwin & Vijay). Also, Sanju Samson can be 2nd wicket-keeper eventhoug h he may not get much chance until MSD is around.

    Since both their teams (CSK & RR) will qualify for play-offs, let's wait & watch how they will perform in high pressure games.

  • vikram on May 11, 2013, 8:06 GMT

    From all of three, Mohit has good chances to be into team soon becoz ((1))He is a real good fast bowler((2))All 5 fast bowlers going to represent India in Champion's Trophy are leaking runs like water and that too without taking sufficient wickets in IPL except bhuvi...((3))Existing Fast bowlers usually gets injured quickly...((4))He is lucky to be in CSK with MSD/Board Prez

  • kannan on May 11, 2013, 7:21 GMT

    Good that Harsha scaled it down to 3 this year ( form 6 last year). his picks from 2012 were, Rayudu, Awana, Dhawan, Balaji ( !) and Mandeep singh ( who). Of which, only dhawan has made something of himself. Typical Harsha, to talk up lesser players, who are no more than flashes in the pan. I cannot see Mohit Sharma/ Karan sharma getting anywhere, and though age is on Samson's side, he has a lot of distance to cover.

  • beverly on May 11, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    Yes, it's only an IPL match; and it's the first time that I am seeing Sanju Samson! However, I know when real class hits the scene! Sanju Samson is the best eighteen year old batsman in the world! I announced Rohit Sharma when he arrived, but to date his No.4 position is being held up by a person of far less class in the Indian test test squad, the only person who has played cricket in any format "WITHOUT ANY PRESSURE" ! The only player who has been told "just go on playing without any fear, because anything you do, YOU ARE UNDROPPABLE"! However, I would like to see the best batting prospect that I have seen, since Brian Lara between 1990 and 2006, that is that 18 year old SANJU SAMPSON being drafted into the Indian team immediately and given the No.4 position in the batting line up. That guy has more class than I've seen from India within the last 30 years! It's youths like him whose praises the Indian fans should be singing, not that of any "HAS-BEEN" who has always been over rated!