'IPL will give him fame, riches. But he has to come and perform for Kerala': Sreesanth's strong verdict on Sanju Samson

Updated on Sep 28, 2022 09:39 AM IST

Sreesanth, who gave Sanju Samson his debut cap in Ranji Trophy in 2011, spoke in detail about the wicketkeeper's T20 World Cup snub and delivered a strong message for the 27-year-old star.

Sanju Samson(PTI)
Sanju Samson(PTI)

Team India is gearing up for the T20 World Cup, scheduled to take place in October-November in Australia later this year. The BCCI announced a 15-member squad earlier this month for the coveted tournament that featured two wicketkeepers in Rishabh Pant and Dinesh Karthik; while Pant has been an integral part of the Indian setup over the past few years, Karthik made an incredible comeback in the T20I side after consistent performances in the 2022 Indian Premier League. In fact, the 37-year-old has seemingly taken over Pant’s role as the first-choice wicketkeeper-batter in the Indian playing XI as well.

There is another name, however, who had been discussed at length ahead of the T20 World Cup selection but had to miss out on a place in the final squad – Sanju Samson. The Kerala-born batter had been a part of the side in multiple T20I series following India's return to action after the IPL this year; however, he only had limited opportunities in the playing XI due to the emergence of Karthik in his role. In fact, Samson didn't feature in any of the five T20Is against South Africa in June, and only played in one match of the two T20Is in Ireland the same month.

Following the return of first-team stars in the T20Is against England, Samson didn't make a single appearance in the three-match series. While some believe that Samson was unjustifiably excluded from the T20 World Cup squad, Sreesanth, who has seen Samson from close quarters throughout the latter's formative years, had a reasoning for the same.

Also read: ‘If Bhuvneshwar is listening to this, my only request is…’: Sreesanth makes massive T20 World Cup claim on India pacer

Former India pacer – a twin-World Cup winner – believes merely IPL heroics won’t be enough for the 27-year-old wicketkeeper-batter and that he needs to return to Kerala and deliver for the state team. Samson leads the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League but his last first-class appearance came way back in December 2019 when Kerala took on Gujarat.

“He has to be consistent. See, everyone is talking about the IPL. I’m from Kerala, I’m somebody who has always supported him. I’ve seen him play from U14. He has played under me. In fact, I was the one who gave him the cap on his Ranji Trophy debut. But the way I see him… it’s a request to him – he has to start performing in first-class matches,” Sreesanth told Hindustan Times in an exclusive chat on the sidelines of the Delhi leg of 2022 Legends League Cricket.

“Yes, IPL is very important. IPL will give him fame, popularity, and riches, everything across the globe. But I have this strong feeling – for any cricketer for that matter – that they need to start doing extremely well for the state side, especially in first-class cricket. Sanju has to come out and perform in first-class matches. Not just score a hundred, score 200s. Come and make the Kerala team win the Ranji Trophy! Make Kerala team win the Vijay Hazare Trophy. Then, the Kerala cricketers will come out on top,” Sreesanth said.

The former India bowler also acknowledged the fan support for Samson but insisted that he is not the only keeper-batter in the Indian setup. Sreesanth also revealed that he himself had a chat with the 27-year-old Samson over the same.

“Is Sanju the only cricketer in Kerala? No, there are so many other cricketers in the state. It’s just a matter of time. Sanju is playing in the IPL, he should be so grateful. The Malayali people across the globe are supporting him, but then, Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul, Ishan Kishan… they can all keep. I’m telling you, the keeper-batsmen combination is very high, it’s not just Sanju,” said Sreesanth.

“I’ve told him also, that he has to come back to first-class cricket and make Kerala win. He is the captain also, I genuinely hope he scores hundreds, not just one hundred in three years. He should come into the scene like how Rishabh Pant or Ishan Kishan came. I’m very confident Sanju has got the talent and the ability. It’s just the matter of consistency,” said Sreesanth.

Sanju Samson recently captained the India ‘A’ side against New Zealand ‘A’ to a 3-0 clean-sweep victory in the one-day series. He registered scores of 29*, 37, and 54 in the series, and according to reports, is likely to be considered for selection in the ODI series against South Africa next month.

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