India vs Australia: New faces, renewed hopes for Men In Blue

India vs Australia: Sanju Samson had almost forgotten the smell of the blue jersey, while T. Natarajan didn’t expect to wear one in the tour Down Under.

Though K. L. Rahul is the first choice keeper for the shorter formats in the series against Australia, Sanju Samson definitely stands a chance to wear the gloves in one game, if not more.   -  Vivek Bendre

Mahendra Singh Dhoni held the Team India wicketkeeping spot for more than a decade, but the search for his successor had begun after the Trans-Tasman World Cup in 2015. Sanju Samson made his T20I debut in the following season, but disappeared after one game — playing just as a batsman — against Zimbabwe.

He returned to the T20I pool — after five years — in January 2020 for three T20Is. Rishabh Pant's 'keeping and shot-making skills came under the scanner and now he is no longer part of the ODI and T20I squad. K. L. Rahul utilised the opportunity to shine with the gloves to cement his spot as the No. 1 stumper-batsman in the side. He will be the first-choice ’keeper for India’s limited-overs series against Australia but Samson definitely stands a chance to wear the gloves in one game, if not more.

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The fact that Samson kept in one game in the comeback series against Sri Lanka is a validation that he will be backed if he turns the limited opportunities to gold.

Samson’s 212 off 129 balls against Goa in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20 marked his comeback route. He followed it up with a few good knocks in the Indian Premier League for Rajasthan Royals. The 42-ball 85 against Kings XI Punjab to help chase down 224 remains a strong highlight.

Samson, the batsman

Inconsistency is the only flaw Samson has to iron out. Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Ajay Ratra, who is a visiting coach at the National Cricket Academy, agrees. “It is difficult to be consistent in T20 cricket as you have to take a lot of chances while batting, but if Samson gets a start and registers a couple of 50-plus scores, he can be an asset to the team,” Ratra tells Sportstar.

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Samson is not only a T20 power-hitter. He executes risk-free ground shots effortlessly. “He plays proper cricketing shots. Technically, he is strong with a good head position. But it is unfortunate that in T20, you don’t get too many balls to be set all the time. If he got a bit more time up the order in the IPL, it could have been better. If he gets his opportunities, he can be a game-changer,” adds Ratra.

Samson, the stumper

The 26-year-old kept in only one out of the four T20Is. And in the IPL, he had to share the responsibility with Jos Buttler. Ratra believes more ’keeping chances in the IPL could have seasoned him faster. “He could keep a little bit more in Royals. For a player’s growth, you need to give him the confidence and opportunity. He is a good ’keeper but I won’t say he is extraordinary. K.L. is doing well. If Samson has to be permanent, his batting needs to be really good.”

T. Natarajan’s impressive IPL campaign for Sunrisers Hyderabad earned him a ticket to Australia as a net bowler. He got into the T20I squad as a replacement for the injured Varun Chakravarthy.   -  Akhilesh Kumar

 

Yorker Natarajan

Salem boy T. Natarajan, who rattled the batters in the IPL with 16 wickets, is on his maiden international tour. The Tamil Nadu left-arm pacer is a yorker specialist with a range of variations. The slower and off-cutter is lethal, too.

Natarajan’s impressive IPL campaign for Sunrisers Hyderabad earned him a ticket to Australia as a net bowler. He got into the T20I squad as a replacement for the injured Varun Chakravarthy.

 

With his talent, Natarajan can finally end India’s quest to find the next Zaheer Khan. He is already a “match-winner” for L. Balaji, the former India and Tamil Nadu pacer.

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“He has progressed really well in a short period of time. India was looking at a left-arm seamer. Every team has a decent left-armer. We have tried with a few left-arm seamers in the past but I feel Natarajan will fit the bill in white-ball cricket. He is one bowler who has kind of developed the skill over a period of time naturally; the fuller length, being lethal with the new ball as he can bring the ball back into the right-hander.

“Natarajan will be handy in international cricket but they have to give him a long rope. He has done well in the Ranji Trophy, followed by a good IPL. It makes a lot of sense that he has put in effort in phases in the past two to three years. I hope Virat and the management gives him the exposure," says Balaji. India will start the tour with the three-match ODI series starting November 27 in Sydney. Natarajan's campaign will start with the T20I series from December 4 in Canberra.