Sanju Samson vs Rishabh Pant: This should not even be a debate | Crickit
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Sanju Samson vs Rishabh Pant: This should not even be a debate

May 10, 2024 12:51 PM IST

Samson has produced five high-impact performances in the tournament, where he has scored 50+ at a strike rate ranging between 157 and 215.

What does Sanju Samson need to do to be the number-one choice wicket-keeper for India at the T20 World Cup in America and the Caribbean? He is in the midst of his best-ever season at the IPL. He has produced more high-impact knocks than any other batter in the tournament. He is scoring at a phenomenal strike rate, and he has been brilliantly consistent. Samson’s competitor – Rishabh Pant - hasn’t fared badly either. But even his best performances pale in comparison to what the Rajasthan Royals’ skipper has achieved this season.

Sanju Samson (R) greets his Delhi Capitals' counterpart Rishabh Pant after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals(AFP)
Sanju Samson (R) greets his Delhi Capitals' counterpart Rishabh Pant after winning the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket match between Delhi Capitals and Rajasthan Royals(AFP)

Samson – higher aggregate, more consistent and more aggressive

Samson has an aggregate of 471 runs in 11 innings which places him at number 4 on the runs tally behind Virat Kohli, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Travis Head. He has registered five fifties in the tournament, which is joint-second highest along with Gaikwad. Samson’s strike rate of 163.5 from number 3 is substantially higher than the norm of other batters (152.3) for the position in the tournament.

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Pant has an aggregate of 413 runs in 12 innings at a much lower average than Samson’s (41.3 vs 67.3). The difference in the averages is substantial and cannot be attributed to the batting positions only – Pant has come out to bat in the powerplay on five occasions and before the completion of the 10th over in six other innings.

Samson – a bigger match-winner

Samson has produced five high-impact performances in the tournament, where he has scored 50+ at a strike rate ranging between 157 and 215. Three of these came when both Jos Buttler and Yashasvi Jaiswal failed. Also, Samson played the dominant role (the highest scorer or the best strike rate) for his team in four of these performances.

Pant, on the other hand, has produced two high impact performances only. His 88 off 43 deliveries against the Titans has been his best knock in the tournament. He also produced a quickfire 55 off 25 from 27 for 3 but this came in a lost cause chasing 273 against the Knight Riders where the top-order collapsed and there was no pressure on Pant as the fate of the match was sealed within the powerplay. So, in a nutshell, Pant has produced just one leading performance with the bat this season.

What is more worrying is that a majority of his performances have been below-par – unfortunately, these have gotten buried under the mirage of average and aggregates.

Pant’s flop show with the bat

Pant scored 18 off 13 deliveries from 74 for 2 (in 8 overs) against PBKS. He crawled to 26 off 28 deliveries from number 4 in a 186-run chase against the Royals which actually cost DC the match. Pant failed against the Mumbai Indians getting dismissed for a solitary one and found it difficult to maintain the tempo despite the great start by Fraser-McGurk in the return leg. He was poor in the 267-run chase against the Sunrisers mustering just 44 off 35 deliveries and could not cash in on the brilliant platform laid by Tristan Stubbs and Abhishek Porel. Pant got a start but could not convert it to a substantial score getting dismissed for 27 off 20 deliveries against KKR and was a non-contributor (15 off 13 deliveries) even as DC piled on 221 against the Royals.

Pant - struggle vs spin and slow off the blocks

One of Pant’s apparent weaknesses in this edition of the IPL has been his sluggish scoring-rate against spin. Pant has a strike rate of 114.9 against the slower bowlers which is the lowest amongst the 14 batters who have faced a minimum of 70 deliveries against spinners this season. Just for perspective, Samson has a strike rate of 146 against the spinners in the tournament.

Also, given that they are contesting for the number 5 or 6 position at the World Cup, neither of them can ill afford to consume too many deliveries to get their eye in. However, while Samson has a strike rate of 140.6 off the first 10 deliveries this IPL season, Pant has struggled initially with a corresponding scoring rate of just 120.3!

Even in terms of frequency of hitting boundaries – a crucial parameter for the death overs – it is Samson who has fared better than Pant (a boundary every 4.3 deliveries vs 4.7 deliveries) in the competition.

It will also be interesting to compare their strike rates between overs 13-20 – the phase they are likely to bat in for India at the T20 World Cup. Here, we broaden the range and consider all T20s from 2022 to get a larger sample. And again, it is Samson who has been more destructive in this phase of play. He has a strike rate of 178.1 in the last 8 overs in all T20s since 2022. Pant is way behind with a corresponding strike rate of 159.2.

Samson in better IPL form in last few seasons

Samson has an average of 37.7 and strike rate of 149.2 with 12 fifties since 2021. On the other hand, Pant averages 35.5 at a strike rate of 144 with six fifties in the IPL in this time-frame.

Samson has seen his stocks rise in the last four seasons in the IPL. His strike rate has risen significantly in this period – from 136.7 in 2021 it shot up to 146.8 in 2022. It further went northwards to 153.4 last season and has rocketed to 163.5 in 2024.

Pant was at his peak in 2018 and 2019 when he smashed a total of 1172 runs in just 30 innings at an average of 45 and strike rate of 169. However, his form declined in the next couple of seasons and not only did he struggle piling on the big scores but also failed to produce the cameos. Pant had a strike rate of 114 in 2020 and 128.5 in 2021. He got some of his form back in 2022 but did not register any fifty the whole season.

The T20I argument against Samson is not valid

A lot of critics argue that Samson has already got his due and failed to convert his IPL success into match-winning performances for India. Well, while that may be true as Samson has an aggregate of just 374 runs in 22 T20I innings at an average of 18.7 and strike rate of 133, a look at Pant’s numbers also do not paint a very rosy picture. Pant has scored just 987 runs in 56 T20I innings at an average of 22.4 and a strike rate of 126.4. In fact, an argument can be made that he has got a longer rope in the format without much success.

Samson is in the form of his life. He is scoring big, he is scoring consistently, he is scoring under-pressure and he is scoring them at a fair clip! He can single-handedly win India matches from number 5 & 6. It will be India’s loss if he isn’t given a fair chance at the marquee event in June.

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