Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and chasing a World Cup spot | Crickit
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Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson and chasing a World Cup spot

By, Mumbai
Aug 03, 2023 07:43 PM IST

Both are chasing one wicketkeeper-batter slot and may have to make an impact with the bat to ensure selection

At the start of the second One-Day International against West Indies, it was made clear by the Indian team management that the three-match series would be an opportunity to experiment and test out as many players as possible in the build-up to the World Cup in October-November.

Ishan Kishan hits six against Yannic Cariah(AP)
Ishan Kishan hits six against Yannic Cariah(AP)

Skipper Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli were rested for the second ODI and did not play in Tuesday’s final game either, with India fielding every player in the 16-member squad, barring Yuzvendra Chahal, across the three matches.

It’s evident that India are scrambling to settle on their squad for the ODI World Cup, where they begin their campaign on October 8. Sure, injuries to several key players haven’t helped their cause, but there seems to be uncertainty over too many slots so close to the marquee event.

In such a situation, every opportunity you get as a player is precious. There are multiple candidates for every slot and a statement knock or spell could thrust one ahead in the race. In the third ODI in Tarouba, Trinidad, Ishan Kishan and Sanju Samson – both are jostling for the keeper-batter spot – had the chance to make that impact. Despite building a platform, they went a bit too hard and couldn’t provide the finishing touch.

There was plenty of assistance for the bowlers in the first two ODIs at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, but that wasn’t the case in the third. The pitch was flat and the ball came on nicely, as Shubman Gill, who top-scored with 85, admitted later. Kishan and Samson came to the crease at different stages of the innings but with a similar mindset, seeking boundaries. While left-hander Kishan, who opened with Gill, drove his second delivery for four, Samson, who came in at No.4 in the 23rd over, whacked his for six. Between them, they hit 10 fours and seven sixes.

Kishan though has been consistent. He hit 52 in the second Test, and fifty-plus scores in all three ODIs to be named the Player-of-the-Series. On Tuesday, he was stumped on 77 and still felt he had missed out.

“Actually, I’m not so happy with the way I finished,” he said at the presentation. “Being set on such a pitch, I was supposed to score big. I was told by my senior players and coach as well that I should have finished the game and got a big score, like big players do.”

Samson, who didn’t play in the first ODI and made nine in the second, batted with clarity and stayed aggressive in his 41-ball 51. Two of his sixes in particular – a pick-up shot over mid-wicket off Jayden Seales and a hoist off the spinner Yannic Cariah – were breathtaking. However, one couldn’t help but wonder if his knock did anything more than remind us that he’s a fabulous ball-striker.

“It was deliberate (the aggressive approach), I had planned differently for each bowler,” he said. “The pitch was also a bit slow, so I wanted to use my feet and be more dominant to change the lengths of the bowlers. It paid off.”

Kishan, 25, and Samson, 28, are in competition for the ‘keeper’s slot. Then there’s KL Rahul, 31, who is also on an injury comeback. He has experience and has done well in the middle order. If Rahul proves his fitness and form, only one of the younger two is likely to get in.

The key perhaps is knowing the importance of holding back to go big. Both Kishan and Samson can be explosive and up the run-rate, but do they have the temperament to keep things steady? Skipper Rohit Sharma is a good example that if you’re batting in the top order, there’s no need to go hell for leather at every stage.

Of course, one doesn’t know what role the team management expects a player to fulfil in each game. Will they be asked to accelerate straightaway or play as anchor? But demonstrating that they can get a big score when set would be vital.

Rohit recently praised Kishan’s ODI double-century against Bangladesh last December. Big scores stay in the mind. “You can go from being a normal player to a big player,” as Kishan himself pointed out.

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