Sanju Samson has been a loyal Royal. The wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala has been part of Rajasthan Royals for years now, and irrespective of success and failure, the team has always backed the 26-year-old.
And as he takes charge as the captain of Rajasthan Royals in this edition of the IPL, Samson’s primary target is to guide the team to the playoffs. Having finished at the bottom of the table last year, the Royals have a lot to play for this season, and the new captain hopes that it will be a ride to remember.
In conversation with Sportstar, Samson talks about the goals and how he is looking forward to working with former Sri Lanka captain and the current director of cricket at the Royals, Kumar Sangakkara.
What are the targets for this season?
Well, as a unit, we have obviously got a primary and the most essential target of making it to the playoffs. I think every franchise starts the tournament with that target in mind, and then obviously you see how far you can go from there. For us, it is important to start the tournament well, make sure we are focusing on the basics and just working as a team. We know, if we can start well and get our players to perform when needed, we will be able to do well. I feel we have a really good team, we’ve got variety and depth in most areas, and the best thing is that everyone is willing to put the last season behind us, and just start anew.
You have been a part of Rajasthan Royals for many years. How challenging will it be to lead the team for the first time?
Rajasthan Royals has been my team, and it will probably be my team always. I have spent so many seasons here. I have probably grown from a boy to a man here, so it feels like home every time I come into this team environment. It is certainly a challenge to be leading the side, but it is a challenge that I would love to embrace. I feel like I am at the best stage of my career to be captaining the Royals, and with almost a decade of experience behind me, I am really confident. I am also very happy to have so many great players in my team who are always willing to help, and of course the super impactful leadership group consisting of Sanga (Kumar Sangakkara), Ben (Stokes) and Jos (Buttler).
Last season, the team finished at the bottom of the table. As a captain, what will be your target to ensure that things are better this time?
Like I mentioned earlier, I think the best part is that everyone in the team wants to put the last season behind them and just want to start afresh. From my perspective, I think the most important bit is to make sure that everyone is on board with the idea of what we’re trying to build here, and everyone knows what their roles are within this team. We also need to start the tournament well and make sure that we are putting in the kind of performances which will result in us putting the points on the board early on in the season.
With Kumar Sangakkara coming in as the director of cricket, what are you looking forward to this season?
As a wicketkeeper-batsman myself, I think he’s just the perfect mentor to have around the team. Especially, given that he has also been a leader, I have had the opportunity to speak to him at length, and I am really looking forward to captaining the team under his guidance. His insights about the game, about wicketkeeping, about batting and captaincy — I think he’s just the right mixture of everything that we need at the moment. He is also very good with the younger players, so I think that should really benefit our younger guys, and obviously he has immense experience behind him, so that should really help our team in getting back on track this season.