In 1814, Russian poet and fabulist Ivan Krylov wrote The Inquisitive Man. It tells of a man who goes to a museum and notices all sorts of tiny things, but fails to notice an elephant. The same seemingly invisible elephant, became proverbial by way of Dostoevsky in his novel Demons: “Belinsky was just like Krylov’s Inquisitive Man, who didn’t notice the elephant in the museum”.
Fast forward 207 years and across continents to India. Rajasthan Royals captain Sanju Samson, admittedly in a land native to elephants, is the latest to publicly address the presence of one in the room. The sizable proboscidean on this occasion had sat itself down squarely between Samson and big hitting South African allrounder Chris Morris.
Sanju Samson refused a single in the 19th over versus the Punjab Kings, preventing Morris from facing the final ball with six needed. Morris looked exasperated, Samson holed out to deep extra cover and it was Kings were crowned as victors in a high scoring game.
Samson, you will recall, had made a magnificent but ultimately fruitless 119. Kismet, though, came calling in the very next game for the Royals. Samson had scored just four. The Royals were dead and buried at 104 for seven until Chris Morris came in swinging, no doubt feeling he had a point to prove – and could not have done so in more convincing fashion as he smashed the winning six in the final over.
The weighty significance of that winning six was hanging heavily in the air, given events in the Royals prior match and Sanju Samson has now used his column in the Hindustan Times to address the elephant: “Which brings me to the elephant in the room” he wrote. “I know everyone wants to know if I spoke to Chris after I kept the strike for the final ball against Punjab. To begin with, we were talking while the situation was unfolding itself. So, just before the 19th over began, we made it clear that I will be taking most of the strike; that even if I couldn’t hit a four or a six, we would be looking for twos to get me back on strike. It was only natural that we would be doing the same in the final over as well.
“This was clear to Morris, me and the team management. Therefore, no, I did not have to go to him after the game and explain myself for not taking the single off the penultimate ball – it was absolutely clear to both of us”.
Samson is philosophical about the outcome of both matches. “Look, cricket is a really funny game. That night, I was also striking it so cleanly and still ended up getting out for a cheap score in the very next match. It was the reverse for Chris. He was finding it a bit tough to strike the ball against Punjab but everything was coming out of the middle of the bat versus Delhi”.
The wicket keeper/batsman from Kerala is at pains to make clear that he values his team’s victory over personal achievement and acclaim. “My first thought after Chris Morris hit that winning six on Thursday night was, ‘even if I don’t score for the next ten matches and we win all of them, I will be the happiest man. Give me a personal score of four runs and a victory, like it was against DC, over an innings of 119 runs and a defeat, however narrow that defeat was against Punjab Kings'”.
Well said Sanju. As captain, putting the team first is essential. But beware, cricket fans and cricket franchises, like elephants, have long memories and will be inclined to recall that declined single for a while. A few big scores in a winning cause will be needed by Samson for those memories to fade.