In the 1996 World Cup, Sri Lanka turned that ‘opening aggression’ up to full volume, when they decided to attack the bowlers from both ends to take full advantage of the field restrictions– with Romesh Kaluwitharna and Sanatha Jayasuriya. It’s widely believed that the Lankans owe their only World Cup trophy to the duo who pummeled bowlers into submission.
But like Sanju Samson says, particularly from a wicket-keeper’s point of view, Australia‘s Adam Gilchrist played that role for the longest duration and in the most successful and consistent manner. In doing that, Samson believes, Gilchrist changed how the role of a wicket-keeper was looked at before that, which was either as a stabilizer in the lower middle order or a cameo-man, who can score the quick 20-30 runs in the death overs to keep his place.
The Kerala glovesman, who plays for the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League, adds another name to that list — MS Dhoni. If Gilchrist changed the wicket-keeper’s role at the top, Dhoni, regarded as one of the best finishers the game has ever seen, changed it in the middle order.
“Wicket-keepers today are all top batsmen as well. You look around the world, most of the ‘keepers are very good batsmen. Adam Gilchrist changed the game for ‘keepers coming up the order, MS Dhoni has done likewise in the middle order,” Samson said while talking to Timesofindia.com
“It is now almost a norm to have a wicketkeeper who is a very good top- or middle-order batsman, as it helps the team add an extra bowler or all-rounder in the team.”
(Sanju Samson, Rajasthan Royals Photo)
In recent times, Dhoni’s presence in the middle has been more of a calming influence rather than that of being an aggressor, which shot him to fame initially in his international career.
Samson, who has been in and out of the Indian team, wants to emulate that.
“MS Dhoni’s calmness and focus in tough situations is something that has influenced me. It is something that I would like to inculcate in my game as well and be calmer and more focussed while batting,” the 25-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman told TimesofIndia.com.
With the 2020 IPL season awaiting to know its fate, the hot debate in the cricket corridors has hovered around the ban on the use of saliva to shine the ball, which has been introduced by the International Cricket Council as part of its precautionary measures against the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of that talk has centered around how badly bowlers will be affected. With no saliva and no use of an artificial substance allowed, swing might just be taken out of the equation. Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram, in fact, recently said that it will turn bowlers into ‘robots’.
But what a lot of people haven’t thought about is that it might also affect the wicket-keeper’s job in some way.
Samson says “maybe it will” make the job a little easier.
“Maybe it will (become less difficult to keep wickets). It also depends a lot on the conditions we’re playing in. In India usually, the ball would not move that much anyway. Maybe the impact will be a lot more in foreign conditions where there is substantial movement for the bowlers,” Samson said.