Sanju, who has played 11 ODIs in his career so far between 2021 and 2022, last featured in an ODI match in November last year against New Zealand in Auckland, where he scored 36 runs. Despite a valuable 36, the Kerala star was dropped from the remaining two ODIs against the Kiwis.
Since the New Zealand tour, India have played 9 ODIs and Sanju’s name didn’t feature in the India squads.
Former India cricketer Robin Uthappa, who played alongside Sanju for the Kerala team in domestic cricket, feels it’s high time the talented wicket-keeper batsman is given a longer rope.
Uthappa, who played 46 ODIs and 13 T20Is for India between 2005 and 2015, and is currently playing for Dubai Capitals in the DP World ILT20, spoke to TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview and discussed Sanju’s Team India future, the KL Rahul conundrum, the Shreyas vs Surya debate, the ODI World Cup in India and much more.
Do you think you announced your retirement too early?
I definitely have a lot more in me. I just felt it was the right time for me to make the move. As a cricketer, I consider myself a student of the game. I enrich myself by playing in a different part of the world. Cricket is a game that will constantly teach you something every day, this is what I feel. This game will teach you more and more. I have that respect towards the game. I owed it to this game that I loved most in my life. I loved it and still love it more than anything in my life. That’s why I am playing these leagues and am attached to this game.
There is a lot of talk about KL Rahul and the slot he should bat at in ODIs…
He should be wicketkeeping and bat in the middle order. He has been performing well in the middle order. His average is also above 50 at 5. He should keep and bat at 5 in the World Cup. He has a phenomenal average of above 50. When he is doing well in this position, why experiment then? His wicket-keeping abilities are just amazing. Whatever happened with Rishabh is sad. If he (Rishabh) was there, he would have been the first choice of course. In Rishabh’s absence, Rahul becomes the first choice right now. India should stick with Rahul as a keeper and batsman at 5. India should figure out who should open with Rohit. That’s the only lack of clarity. And the important question is how will you squeeze in Suryakumar Yadav? I am certain that Shreyas Iyer will be feeling the pressure as well. Both will definitely go to the World Cup but who will get to play, this question will give the captain a big headache. It will be between Surya and Shreyas. But Surya won’t be waiting in the wings for a long time.
Do you think a talent like Sanju Samson should be given a longer rope?
100 percent. There is no question about that. He should be given a long rope. He is a high-quality player with a lot of potential. He has not been given a long opportunity. If you want to use him at No. 3, give him at least 5 opportunities. If you want to use him at No. 5, give him the opportunities at least. But give him a chance. Give him a couple of full series and see how he performs. If he doesn’t do it, then say he is not good enough for this level. If you select him and give him one match and then drop him and then say he hasn’t performed well, it sends a wrong message. It is so hard to get into the Indian side. You feel for someone like Sanju. But you just hope for the kind of opportunities he deserves.
(KL Rahul – Twitter Photo)
Your take on Jasprit Bumrah and his injury. Do you think he should probably rest for the IPL, especially with the all-important ICC ODI World Cup later this year?
Bumrah must be in a place right now where he wants answers. He must be wondering – ‘what is actually going on with me. Why am I not recovering’? The NCA will have to give answers to that. There are huge and amazing rehab facilities. So, NCA will have to give answers to that as in what’s happening there, why aren’t physios able to get him ready? I think he should definitely play the IPL. If he plays the entire IPL, it will give him huge confidence in not just himself, but also the team, players, viewers, and supporters ahead of the World Cup. Bumrah playing IPL will give a message that he is fit. We all know what a great bowler he has been, and how hard working he has been to improve and get to where he is today. He is a high-quality bowler and we need to respect that. You need a player like him in the team.
India have a plethora of wicketkeeping options right now…
In Tests, Rishabh Pant. Only Rishabh Pant. I won’t look beyond Rishabh in Tests. In ODIs and T20Is, someone like Rishabh has not got many opportunities in one position. He is a top-order batsman. He has made his career and got into the Indian team on the back of performing in the top three. You have got him into the Indian team and using him at No. 5 or 6, it just doesn’t make sense. In Tests, you are using him at 6 or 7, fair enough. Please go ahead and stick to that because he performs well there. But in white ball cricket, he has scored big runs at No. 3 or No, 4. I don’t think he should be used beyond these spots. He is a top-order batsman, and he performs well at the top, so please use him at the top.
Will we see Rohit Sharma doing a MS Dhoni in this year’s ODI World Cup, you think?
It will be in India. But Indian cricket has a lot of things to sort out. Today, it doesn’t matter where India plays, it matters how players feel, and how they feel about their own performances. If you give them the opportunity, they will show how much potential and caliber they have. There are players who have a lot of potential but not getting enough chances.
Your take on Rahul Dravid the Head Coach…
It’s been a little bit of a mixed bag. I know the effort he is putting in is very much genuine. I am sure he has to deal with a lot of other things as a coach. It is not easy dealing with Indian cricket because there are so many different cultures and so many different pressures. You would probably feel that Rahul Dravid is one of the best men to handle these things. He is actually doing his best. I know he is doing his very best. I would hope that he is able to deliver the results that the people of India truly desire.
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