Sanju Samson was deemed as the successor to Mahendra Singh Dhoni after his exploits with the bat in IPL 2013. Then 18, Samson smashed 63 off 41 balls for Rajasthan Royals against Royal Challengers Bangalore to help his side chase down 171 and provide first glimpses of his class. Since then, a lot has happened from the dispute with the Kerala Cricket Association to a knee injury and a below-par 2016-17 Ranji season.
Things did get better for the 22-year-old, who ended IPL 2017 as the highest run getter for Delhi Daredevils, scoring 386 runs in 14 innings at a strike-rate of 141.39.
As he prepares for the season to ensure, the wicketkeeper-batsman has said he is aware that just doing well in the IPL was not enough, “I have realised that doing well in the IPL doesn’t guarantee a berth in the Indian side,” Samson told The Times of India. “You need to perform consistently in the domestic season and be in a good shape if you want to get selected in the Indian side. That’s what I am aiming for.”
Samson said fitness issues did play part in a Ranji campaign that netted him just 334 runs in 11 innings at 30.36, “I had struggled with my fitness last season. Since the matches were being played in neutral venues, we had to travel a lot and it would take a toll on my body,” he said. “Eventually, I would end up not making the right decisions in pressure situations.
“Last year, I wanted to perform desperately. There was too much expectation from me and it bogged me down. It limited my approach as I was thinking a lot and making things complicated. So I got frustrated and started losing my cool. This year, I have already started working on my fitness.”
Samson and other youngsters at Delhi have spoken repeatedly of the impact Rahul Dravid has had on their careers. “At the start of IPL 10, I started working with (Daredevils coach) Rahul Dravid and things started to fall in place again,” he reiterated. “He told me to play with freedom and forget about the results. So instead of thinking about scoring big, I kept a check on my expectations and focused on contributing in every possible way. I started expressing more and took risks and it all paid off.”
Samson played one T20I, his only international appearance, in 2015 against Zimbabwe. He scored 19 in a match Zimbabwe won by 10 runs.
Rishabh Pant, with whom Samson shares a great rapport as manifested in their swashbuckling 143-run partnership that helped Delhi chase down a mammoth 208 in just 17.3 overs against Gujarat Lions this season, is seen as his direct competition for a berth in the Indian team, going forward.
Pant got his opportunity on the on-going tour of the Caribbean. “I don’t believe in competition as you will then feel bad when someone is selected ahead of you,” Samson said. “So if Rishabh, who is a great friend of mine, is selected, I will always wish him the best.”