T20 World Cup: Sanju Samson is ready to play as India's first-choice wicketkeeper, says Naman Ojha

Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha believes Sanju Samson is primed to take on the role of India's primary wicketkeeper in the upcoming T20 World Cup, suggesting he can excel both as a batsman and behind the stumps.

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya
W. Bhattacharyy

Last Updated: 2024-05-15

Louis Hobbs

4 minutes read

Sanju Samson will appear in his maiden T20 World Cup starting on June 1 in Dallas, United States. The India wicketkeeper-batter deserves credit for carving a space for himself amid competition from Rishabh Pant and K.L. Rahul, who did not earn a call-up.
Samson made his T20I debut in Zimbabwe in 2015. However, he had to wait five more years to play his second match. The opportunities were limited, and inconsistency was a concern. He could not replicate the Indian Premier League strokeplay in international cricket immediately.

Image Credits: Rajasthan Royals

Image Credits: Rajasthan Royals

A different beast in 2024

Samson is a different beast in 2024. He worked on his mindset and the balance between training and recovery to iron out the flaws. After 486 runs in 12 matches for Rajasthan Royals in the IPL season, he stands a chance to be in the Indian playing XI in the ICC showpiece, both as a batter and a wicketkeeper-batter ahead of Pant or along with him. 

Former India wicketkeeper-batter Naman Ojha, who has appeared in 113 IPL matches, backed the Kerala boy to fire on all cylinders in the T20 World Cup. "I have seen the progress of Samson for the past decade. I have seen him closely, and he has made formidable progress in the last two years. He wants to finish games, especially in this season. He is operating like a proper batter who can win games under any situation. He is batting like a champion on a mission to win the trophy for Rajasthan Royals," Ojha told Sportsboom on Monday.

Among the big-ticket encounters in the IPL, Samson has remained unbeaten and finished games against Lucknow SuperGiants (71* off 33) and (82* off 52), and Mumbai Indians (38* off 28).

The importance of Samson

The veteran Ojha, who has gone through the rigours of the IPL with Rajasthan Royals, Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Delhi Daredevils, wants selectors to visualise Samson as a permanent wicketkeeper-batter for India. "It should not be 'if you perform, we will keep you, or else, we will send you back'. He is ready to play as a batter and a keeper-batter also. He needs opportunities. You can't give him a couple of matches and then drop him. If you give him a series, he can establish himself as a permanent wicketkeeper-batter for India. There will always be jitters and nerves that need to be out of a player's mind. 

"Samson is ready to play as India's first-choice wicketkeeper and a middle-order batter who can take anybody's position in the T20 World Cup. He is important in the Indian team," added Ojha, who had made his Test debut under Virat Kohli in 2015 but retired in 2021.

Ojha feels Samson is a perfect fit in the Indian playing XI and lauded his wicketkeeping skills. "He has been keeping for so many years for Rajasthan Royals and his state team Kerala. It is a hectic job, especially when you are also looking to bat through the innings and march your troops alongside. Samson has been occupied full-time in his head. I want him to play for India as a permanent member in ODIs and T20I cricket," said Ojha, who toiled for 20 seasons in the domestic circuit for Madhya Pradesh.
Sighting the ball for 20 overs from behind the stumps can enhance hand-eye coordination while batting, and to maximise the skill, Ojha feels Samson can bat up the order to score more runs. "With time, Samson should be promoted up the order. He can bat anywhere from No. 3 to No. 5. You may see the ball better after keeping in every game but you also develop soreness in the lower limb as you get older. It gets tricky to get your footwork correct from ball one after keeping wickets, especially when facing a delivery coming at 150 kmph," said Ojha, whose IPL career ended in 2018 with 1,554 runs, six fifties, 63 catches, and 10 stumping dismissals.

India will start their T20 World Cup campaign against Ireland on June 5 at the newly constructed Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in New York

Wriddhaayan Bhattacharyya is a cricket journalist based in India who takes a keen interest in stories that unfold on and off the field. His expertise lies in news writing, features and profiles, interviews, stats, and numbers-driven stories. He has also worked as a podcaster and talk show host on cricket-related shows on YouTube and Spotify.