"He's the sort of player that you want in your team, because there's the match-winner and there's a player who can take on any type of bowling, and he's fearless. That's a remarkable characteristic for a player that hasn't played a lot of international cricket"Daniel Vettori
Sanju Samson can be extremely frustrating to watch. While the going's good, he can be exhilarating. But all too often, the fun doesn't last long enough to be the sort of impactful innings one expects from a premier batter. That's not all. Samson "is wasting good form and good opportunity to score runs to press for an international recall," according to Ian Bishop.
On Tuesday, against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Samson walked out at 33 for 2, which quickly became 33 for 3, one of the wickets that of Jos Buttler. The first ball Samson faced, he hit a bullet off the back foot past point for four off Wanindu Hasaranga. A six over extra cover came off the third ball. And he was 24 off 12 soon after, having hit Shahbaz Ahmed for back-to-back sixes. He faced nine more balls, having slowed down in between, before he was dismissed for 27, missing an attempted reverse-sweep against Hasaranga. This was the ball after another attempted reverse sweep, against the same bowler, had connected with thin air.
Asked on ESPNcricinfo's T20 Time Out what he felt watching Samson fail to carry on, Bishop said, "That Sanju is wasting good form and good opportunity to score runs to press for an international recall, to lead his team when Jos Buttler doesn't score. It's not that Sanju's out of form. But that's a match-up with Wanindu Hasaranga and him, and he should have known better. He got out of the blocks quite nicely.
"I'm a Sanju Samson fan, been that way for years now, [but] he's wasting good form by shot selection."
The match-up Bishop mentioned is a curious one. Samson had run into Hasaranga in six innings before the latest one, scored just 18 runs, and had been dismissed four times. Daniel Vettori, speaking on the show, agreed with Bishop, adding that it often seemed like the game came too easy to Samson, and he backed himself to do too many things too soon.
"It feels like the game is too easy for him, so 'I'm going to try something different, I'm going to try and make sure I can play every shot in the book'. He is at his best when he's striking down the ground. He's a joy to watch when he's playing that well. But everything looks a little bit easy and sometimes it feels like he isn't in the moment, and then he's out," Vettori said. "We talk about this more often than not, probably, about a Sanju Samson innings, where he's 30 off 20 or 30 off 18, and it's been brilliant. But he doesn't actually carry the team on to the performance that they need.
"As I've said before, the game just comes too easy for him. 'I've missed it this time, so I'll try it again and I'll make sure I have it this time'. Hasaranga was a good match-up for him, so he almost needed to respect the fact that Hasaranga is such a good bowler and it's not going to be that easy. But it looked like Sanju just thought it would be easy."
So far this season, Samson has hit a 55 in 27 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad as his biggest innings, but a couple of 30s and 40s aside, it's been disappointing. Unlike Bishop, though, Vettori doesn't feel Samson has been harming his international chances, even if he hasn't been doing them any good.
"I don't think so, I think it will be a body of work," Vettori said when asked about Samson's chances of an India recall. "Particularly if he leads Rajasthan to the final or win it, I think that will play a huge part in a recall.
"He's the sort of player that you want in your team, because there's the match-winner and there's a player who can take on any type of bowling, and he's fearless. That's a remarkable characteristic for a player that hasn't played a lot of international cricket."