A little more than nine years ago, in an IPL game played between Rajasthan Royals and Royal Challengers Bangalore, an 18-year-old Sanju Samson cracked an inside-out loft off Murali Karthik to clear the boundary rope with ease. The memory of that shot is still vivid. Not because of the quick footwork and sheer timing behind that stroke. But somewhere that inside-out shot gave the feeling that the 18-year-old was gift-wrapped with the required skills to make it big at the highest level.
Nine years on, when Samson walked out to replace Deepak Hooda at the crease in the fourth game of the series against the West Indies, he was playing just his 15th T20I for the country. Due to a combination of factors, Samson hasn’t been able to kick on and cement a place in the Indian limited-overs side. In the Florida T20I, Samson had just under 10 overs to put on an exhibition of his array of shots and give a booster tonic to his stop-start international career.
On a slightly two-paced deck, Samson showed the wisdom of all the experience that he has garnered over the years, as he didn’t try to club every single ball into the stands. Yes, when Alzarri Joseph and Obed McCoy banged the ball short, Samson brought out his customary pull shot. When required, in the slog overs, he reached for a ball outside off and lofted Dominic Drakes down the ground. Yet, it was largely an innings where Samson looked to deal in a diet of singles. Eventually, Axar Patel took pressure off Samson by taking advantage of half volleys from the misfiring McCoy and landed a couple of mighty hits over the boundary rope.
Meanwhile, Samson finished with an undefeated 23-ball 30. The kind of an innings where he showed glimpses of his class but nowhere near enough to make the No.5 slot his own. Samson, though, would hope the unbeaten hand is akin to an introduction para for his new CV and he can fill the rest of the page with more impressive achievements.
After the innings break, when the players walked out to the field, another World Cup hopeful, Avesh Khan, must have been feeling some pressure. Unlike Samson, it was Avesh’s third opportunity of the series. Unfortunately, going into the fourth game, his series record made for sorry reading: 5.2 overs, 78 runs and 1 wicket. Avesh does have useful skills for the shortest format: Hit-the-deck bowling and when in rhythm, he can nail the yorkers. But in the prevailing conditions, he was struggling to wrap his skills with variations to provide some buffer for his bowling.
The Indian management have shown enough faith in out of form players like Shreyas Iyer and Avesh. Although, Harshal Patel’s side strain problem has played a part in Avesh’s continual selection. “I’m getting a lot of support, because my two matches hadn’t gone well,” Avesh said in the presser. “But Rohit bhai and Rahul sir have backed me, always gave me confidence. Off the field they talked to me, ‘as a bowler, T20 isn’t an easy game, you don’t become a bad bowler after two bad games’. And in the third match, I gave a match-winning performance.
“In the South Africa tour too (series) they backed me because I hadn’t got wickets in three games but I took four wickets in the fourth game. There also I was backed. So when the captain and coach give you that kind of backing, then the player will perform well,” he added.
When Avesh’s short and wide ball crashed into the boundary hoardings in his very first over of the innings, it seemed as if the Indian set-up’s brains trust would be left disappointed once again. The very next ball, Avesh redeemed himself to some extent by rolling his fingers over the ball to induce Brandon King to offer a caught and bowled chance, which he duly accepted with both hands. It was a normal variation but the ball got stuck into the pitch, surprising King. For the rest of his spell, the off-cutter seemed to be Avesh’s go-to variation as he finished with noteworthy figures of 2 for 17 from four overs.
The competition for places to get into the Indian T20 World Cup squad is tough. Avesh’s job is made tougher by the fact that his team-mate, Arshdeep Singh seems to have raced ahead in the pecking order with consistent performances, and his left-arm angle adds another potential weapon to the formidable Indian fast bowling artillery. Having said that, the Indian selectors might still be keeping an eye on Avesh as his hit the deck skills could come in handy in Australian conditions. In that context, just like Samson, Avesh would believe his two-wicket haul is like a foundation stone on which he can build a structure with another impressive show in the last game.
Source By – Cricbuzz