It's right to say Sanju Samson is killing the competition in India as far as the wicketkeeper-batsman role is concerned for the national team.
Rishabh Pant has had the selectors and the team management's backing for the last couple of years but now the clamour for Samson is at fever pitch, after his match-winning 32-ball 74 for Rajasthan Royals against Chennai Super Kings at Sharjah in the 2020 IPL earlier this week.
From former cricketer Gautam Gambhir to Thiruvananthapuram MP and cricket aficionado Shashi Tharoor...many have come out in Samson's support with more force than ever before.
When Pant was chosen ahead of Samson and others a couple of years ago, by all means it was the right call as the left-hander was quite impressive in the IPL as well as other domestic tournaments...yes, more impressive than anyone else.
But a lot has changed since then. Pant, after tasting early success that saw him score Test centuries in Australia and England, has appeared going downhill for sometime now. He has gained bad weight and grown more adventurous at the crease. And the latter aspect has seen him try impossible shots and get out pretty frequently.
Samson, on the other hand, is much fitter and visually appealing as a batsman. He plays clean shots and his head doesn't move when he goes for the aerial route. His timing is impeccable to boot. Pant falls behind in these stakes. He is moving too much at the crease and too many unorthodox shots and failures have brought down his stock.
Though it will be wrong to say that the national selectors were partial to Pant. Once it became certain that MS Dhoni won't be around for long, they invested in Pant who showed a lot of promise early on. However, once the chinks in his armour came to their attention, it's not that Samson wasn't tried.
Earlier this year, Samson got two T20Is opportunities against hosts New Zealand but nothing significant came of them as he scored 8 and 2 in those games. Ardent followers of the Indian national cricket team know very well that how important it is for a player to make his mark early on to get enough rope.
Having said that, it is true in light of Pant's abysmal run with the bat and often with gloves in last one year or so, the need to try out Samson for a longer duration is much greater now -- in the best interests of the team.
The accusation that players from lesser cricket associations don't get favourable treatment from the BCCI, however, is totally baseless. There is no evidence. Pant, to his credit, did well at the start of his international career, and an organisation which takes the long view of things like the BCCI doesn't just discard a player based on a few failures. So the accusation that Samson doesn't get as many opportunities because he is from Kerala and Pant gets because he is from Delhi has no meat.
Samson will definitely get more international opportunities in the future which means Pant can't afford his lean patch to go on longer than it already has. This competition definitely augurs well for Indian cricket.
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