IPL 2021, Sanju Samson Interview: Got texts from Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni after I became RR captain
- Ahead of IPL 2021, Sanju Samson talks about his take on leadership, how he received congratulatory messages from Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, having Kumar Sangakkara—RR's director of cricket—to support him in his new role and why he wouldn’t want to place too much emphasis on RR’s latest and most expensive recruit, Chris Morris.
Sanju Samson knew he was going to be named the new captain of Rajasthan Royals (RR) a while before it was made public. He couldn’t resist sharing the news with his close circle—his parents and wife Charu. “It was tough keeping it to myself,” he said with a smile. After it was officially announced, a few text messages gave the 26-year-old “special little moments” to cherish. “I got some nice congratulatory messages from Virat bhai, Rohit bhai and Mahi bhai,” the soft-spoken Samson recalled.
In this chat with HT ahead of the 2021 IPL season, the wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala talks about his take on leadership, having Kumar Sangakkara—RR's director of cricket—to support him in his new role and why he wouldn’t want to place too much emphasis on RR’s latest and most expensive recruit, Chris Morris. Excerpts:
You’ve captained Kerala, its U-19 team and also the India U-19 team once before. What has your leadership experience been like?
I look at captaincy as more of a service to the team. A captain is someone who is there to provide the right kind of atmosphere that every individual requires in a team and backs each one of them. It’s a lot about man-management skills—giving positive feedback to your players, understanding where they are coming from. The fact that my team and the franchise trust me to do this job gives great confidence that there is something in me. I firmly believe that a captain is only good if the team is good. The Royals have a quality bunch of great players and amazing support staff backing them. I’ve known most of them for years; they are like family. So, I’m in a comfortable space with the people I have around me. I have been part of the Royals from my teen days in 2013. Playing for one team for this long to now becoming captain, it’s a proud moment.
Having someone like Sangakkara around must be a boon…
Sanga is a legend; not just because of his cricket. He is a wonderful person to interact with. That takes a lot of pressure off me. When we had our first chat, I just felt I was blessed to be with him. He knows exactly where I am coming from, what I will be feeling and going through playing for my country and leading an IPL team at this age. I couldn’t have asked for anything more than having Sanga as my partner in this role.
This IPL will see four wicketkeeper-batsmen lead their respective teams. Do you feel it is too many hats to don being a wicketkeeper-batsman and captain?
It’s about how you take it, really. I’ve always felt a wicketkeeper is the best judge on a cricket field. He can see a lot more things, analyse the game better and is one step ahead. If you feel it’s too much to work around, it might get complicated. If you feel you’re in the best position to lead the team as a wicketkeeper, then it becomes a lot easier. I treat it as the latter.
RR finished last in the previous season. What's your vision for the team in this new season?
I don't think we did too much wrong in the last season. If you look at our XI on paper, we're one of the best. So I would like to tell everyone that we are a great bunch of players and we just need to play some good cricket. If we are in the right mindset as a team, I believe good things are ahead of us. This format demands a lot of fearless cricket, be it in batting, bowling or fielding. It's all about speed, power and expressing yourself. That's what I expect from my team.
How big a role do you see Chris Morris playing in the team, especially in the absence of Jofra Archer at least for some part of the season?
I would not like to put him (Morris) under too much pressure or tell him that he's the biggest member of this team. Everyone has a big role to play; even someone bowling one over might have a crucial role. But we're excited to have Morris back. He’s a very happy-go-lucky person, someone who likes to keep the atmosphere light. But when he enters the ground, he is a completely different person—competitive and eager to win matches. It’s great to have an individual like that in the team.