The selection, or non-selection, of Sanju Samson has been among the most divisive topics in Indian cricket for the past few years. The fact that he has played only 24 T20Is in his career despite playing his first all the way back in 2015, and made his ODI debut only in 2021, shows how sporadic his appearances have been at the international stage. Sanju Samson hasn't been able to cement a spot for himself in the Indian team A spot for a wicketkeeper-batter in the Indian limited overs sides was taken by one of the all-time greats of the sport - MS Dhoni, at the time that Samson burst on to the scene.
However, by the time Dhoni retired in August 2020, Rishabh Pant had emerged as the top contender to replace him with the likes of Ishan Kishan competing as well. KL Rahul had also proven to be quite handy with the gloves.Moreover, Samson's domestic record, while being a strong one, never screamed out numbers quite like Pant or Kishan's did. Pant had become the youngest Indian to score a first class triple century in the 2016/17 Ranji Trophy season, at the end of which he had scored a total 972 runs at an average of 81.00 and a mind boggling strike rate of 107.28. That same season, Kishan had scored 799 runs in 10 matches at an average of 57.07 with three centuries. Samson had that year scored 334 runs in seven matches at an average of 30.36 with just one century to show.In international cricket, Samson seems to have suffered almost a reverse of the predicament that Suryakumar Yadav is going through. In the 13 ODI matches that Samson has played, he has scored 390 runs at an average of 55.71. In T20Is, though he has scored only 374 runs at a strike rate of 133.57 and average of 19.68. Samson had got an extended run with the T20I squad in the recently concluded five-match series against the West Indies and he recorded scores of 12, 7 and 13 whenever he got to bat.Batting position to blame?Samson plays as a top order batter in the IPL and in domestic cricket. While his best has come batting at No.5 and 6 in ODIs, Samson scored his only T20I fifty in one of the two times that he got to open for India.
Former batter Abhishek Nayar feels that Samson's difficulty to cement a spot in international cricket comes down to the fact that he has not been allowed to bat in his natural position.“To start with, his batting position. I feel he is a No.3 batter and often you get the best out of Sanju when he is batting in that position. We have seen him bat at No.4 in Ireland and No.6 in the West Indies, I don't feel that's an ideal position for him,” Nayar, who is an expert for Jio Cinema for India's tour of Ireland, told Hindustan Times in an interaction with a select group of reporters.“He is obviously trying his best and trying to get a hold of playing in that kind of position in those conditions. I think we all need to be patient with Sanju. We all know the potential that he has. We will get the best of Sanju at No.3 but if we are ready to invest in him and wait, then once he understands the mantra of scoring runs at No.4 or 6. I think he will be someone that India will look towards in the future,” said Nayar. Nayar had earlier said on the channel that he was surprised by Tilak Varma being sent ahead of Samson in the first T20I. "You have seen Tilak Varma do well at No. 4 and Sanju Samson is someone who has batted at No. 3. It shouldn't matter whether he is right-handed or left-handed," he said.With Rahul potentially unable to play in the first match of the 2023 Asia Cup, Samson could very well be chosen to fill in for him in the batting lineup. All the arguments against him not withstanding, a big innings in that game, which happens to be against arch-rivals Pakistan, might buy Samson a lot more extended time with the team.