NEW DELHI: Sanju Samson is in a very interesting phase of his career. He is forever knocking on the doors of Indian selectors but a secure spot in the Indian team has eluded him. His name doesn’t figure in the squad that’s picked to play for India in the T20 World Cup in October-November.
He does have the responsibility of captaining Rajasthan Royals, though. “Things are much clear. It’s important to go into the team with a clear mind. There will be no doubts about the selection when IPL resumes,” Samson told TOI.
Days before the second half of IPL got underway, he sat down for a session with Jason Holder, who was captaining the Barbados Royals in the Caribbean Premier League.
Being a young captain of a developing team isn’t the easiest task, especially when you are yet to establish yourself as an international cricketer. Holder has a solid first-hand experience with West Indies and Samson could only pick his brains.
“I don’t think leadership is a one-way street, or an individual thing. You know, you need your teammates, you need people around you, you need a strong support system like Clive Lloyd. So many people get caught up in the future and miss out on every single moment,” Holder says.
Every time the IPL comes around, the spotlight falls on Samson. Each edition raises his stock. It’s taken eight seasons for Samson to know how to deal with the trappings.
“First of all, when you’re playing for an IPL team and thinking about Indian selection, then it’s a wrong mindset. People do talk a lot about Indian selection and cementing your place but that is actually a by-product – if you perform, you get opportunities,” Samson states.
He is aware of the guns trained at him and the discerning eyes of the critics follow every movement. “I think IPL is the most viewed tournament in the world. It will get you noticed. People do say good things about me and they also say other things as well. It’s natural for me now,” he claims. “Everyone is having that kind of pressure. And everyone goes through that kind of pressure, knowing that so many people are waiting outside anyway. That’s the reason behind Indian cricket’s success.”
With so much T20 cricket around and emergence of new formats, is there a temptation to become a T20 specialist like a lot of the West Indies stars?
Holder, for one, does advocate the growth of shorter formats but makes it amply clear that everything has to revolve around Test cricket. “Something like The Hundred brings a new horizon. I enjoy T20 but the height of cricket is always Test cricket. I thoroughly enjoy representing Windies in Test cricket, followed closely by T20.”
The Hundred format excites Samson too. “The Hundred format might be very exciting, actually. Jason is very lucky to play all three formats for his country and I would also like to do that first and then think on those lines,” Samson says.
The T20 World Cup selections are behind both of them. It’s about taking a fresh guard. For starters, Samson has a clear vision for Royals. It’s grooming Indian talent. “I have been with RR from the age of 18. I have seen a lot of Indian talent coming in and going on to play for India like Sakariya did. We give a product to the Indian team. That’s our mindset and that’s how we pick our team. We have to be the fittest team in the IPL,” he states.
As Holder took leave, he gave Samson a message: “As a young captain Sanju, just do what your gut says man. Have a strong support system around you. You guys have gone reasonably well so far in the in the IPL campaign. I am in the Sunrisers camp. I think we’re bottom of the table. So, if anything, I should be asking you for advice.”
The IPL starts in less than a week. Samson knows he has missed out on an opportunity to play in a World Cup but says: “Sanju Samson is happy with himself. I choose to be this way.”