India captain KL Rahul conceded that a “phenomenal” Sanju Samson was finding it difficult to find a place in the side as stalwarts in the team occupy key spots, adding that he was pleased the talented cricketer grabbed his chance in the series against the Proteas.
Samson, elevated to No.3 spot, smashed his maiden ODI century in the third and final match against the Proteas on December 21 as India won by 78 runs to wrap up the series 2-1.
“Pleased for Sanju, he’s been a phenomenal performer in the IPL over the years. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to give him the chance at No. 3, because obviously there are stalwarts in the ODIs who occupy those key spots.
“Glad he was able to grab his chances here,” said Rahul following the big win.
Samson’s measured 108 (114 balls) and Tilak Varma’s patient 52 (77 balls) guided India to a competitive 296 for eight. South Africa challenged the tourists through a fifty by Tony de Zorzi (81, 87 balls) but were eventually bowled out for 218 in 45.5 overs.
Samson didn’t get the opportunity in the first ODI as the target set by South Africa was very low, while in the second match, the wicketkeeper-batter scored 12 coming in at No.5. But in the decider, he was elevated to No.3 as Virat Kohli is not touring with the ODI side.
Rahul added the focus of the team will now shift to the two-Test series beginning in Centurion on December 26. Regular skipper Rohit Sharma and Kohli will be back in the side and Rahul will be the first-choice keeper.
“Will celebrate with the the boys and then switch back to focusing on the Test series in a day or two. Love being around the boys, that’s how it’s been since I came over to South Africa after some time away following a disappointing World Cup final,” he added.
‘Player of the match’ Samson said he was happy to have scored his maiden ODI century in 16 outings, and added the extra 3-4 overs he got to bat coming in at No.3 helped him in his endeavour.
“Proud of it (century), specially considering the result as well. Have been working hard. This format gives you some extra time to understand the wicket and the bowler’s mindset. Batting at the top of the order gives you those 10-20 extra deliveries,” said Samson.
He added that the juniors in the side had really upped their game and made the seniors proud.
“The whole country is very proud of how Tilak Verma has stepped up, lots more expected from him. The seniors have set the standards of Indian cricket and the juniors are coming in and doing the job. It’s not very easy, travelling in between and playing every 2-3 days but they’re getting the job done.” Left-arm pacer Arshdeep Singh, who returned sublime figures of 4 for 30 to add to the five-for in the first ODI, said the IPL experience had made him a much better cricketer.
“The plan was simple, it was to bowl wicket-to-wicket and get lbws and bowled. Sometimes when there isn’t anything happening on the wicket, you need some support from the umpires, that’s why I had to appeal a lot,” said the ‘Player of the Series’ for his 10 wickets.
“IPL has been a very good platform for us youngsters, there isn’t a big gap between IPL and international cricket. You understand the mindset of international cricketers and it helps. We are all loving the chances we’ve got. We’d love to give our all in the future as well and do well,” he added.