Former Chairman of selectors MSK Prasad feels that Sanju Samson, who warmed the bench for most parts of the Sri Lanka and New Zealand series earlier this year, is still only third choice as a keeper, behind Rahul and Pant. Prasad also feels that Pant might now be able to express himself freely.
A double century versus Goa in the 2019 Vijay Hazare Trophy thrust Kerala’s Sanju Samson into the limelight but despite his raging domestic form, the youngster only featured in a total of three games across India’s T20Is against Sri Lanka and New Zealand. To his dismay, Samson was not able to make the most of his chances either, as the 25-year-old managed to post scores of just 6, 8 and 2 in the three games he featured in.
Thus, taking everything into consideration, including the seniority of both KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant, former chairman of selectors MSK Prasad is of the opinion that Samson, despite MS Dhoni’s retirement, is still the third choice in the wicket-keepers’ list. Prasad also noted that IPL performances will be key for all three cricketers in the race for the first-choice keeper.
"If you go by New Zealand series, the last one we played, KL starts as first choice and Sanju is also there but as third choice. He did well and gave that flexibility to play extra batsman or bowler as per conditions,” Prasad was quoted as saying by TOI.
"But yes, after five months, everyone starts from scratch and IPL form will be important.”
Prasad, whose tenure as chief selector ended at the start of the year, was one of the biggest backers of young Rishabh Pant and the 45-year-old attested that the Delhite would still be an invaluable asset for the Indian side, in the long term, if groomed properly. Prasad noted that Pant needed to be given a ‘fair go’ in the side to prove his credentials.
"Indian cricket has invested in Rishabh Pant over the last few years. We have seen the best and worst of Pant in these years. He is someone who will serve Indian cricket for a long time provided he is groomed properly.
"This IPL will also prove where each one stands in terms of form and fitness. But I agree that Rishabh needs to be given a fair go before you think of anyone else," Prasad said.
Another former wicket-keeper, Nayan Mongia, meanwhile, said that he was confident that the management would give Pant a long run and added that it was up to the youngster to grab whatever opportunity he gets with both hands.
"It's huge boots to fill in and rightly so. You don't get MS Dhoni's everyday. So Pant will get his opportunity and let him prove his mettle. I am sure that the team management will give him enough chances.
"He has potential and now what he will do with the chances is up to him,” Mongia opined.