Team India are all set to take on New Zealand in the third and final match of the tour, at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Wednesday. India lost the opener by seven wickets after a masterclass from Tom Latham and Kane Williamson before rain abandoned the second game, leaving New Zealand with an unassailable 1-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. India now aim to level the series in the final game. But heading into the game, the talk has been around Sanju Samson and whether he would make the playing XI for the third ODI.

Samson was benched for the entire three-match T20I series. Captain Hardik Pandya called it an “unfortunate” case. He was however picked for the ODI series opener on Friday where he put up a decent knock and stitched a healthy 96-run stand with Shreyas Iyer, albeit in a losing cause. He was then dropped to make way for Deepak Hooda in the second game and add more bowling depth to the XI, a decision that left fans fuming.

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However, on Tuesday, the day before the 3rd ODI, Samson was spotted having a long conversation with head coach VVS Laxman after his net session. Samson was spotted quietly listening to what Laxman had to say about his batting. The legendary batter, who filled in for Rahul Dravid’s role for the tour, had a conversation with Suryakumar Yadav as well during India’s net session.

Laxman has been criticised by fans for not picking Samson for the limited-overs tour. But former India cricketer Murali Kartik on Sunday defended his ex-teammate over the criticism while in conversation with Prime Video.

“He comes and gets a lovely score. He bats really well in the series against South Africa. Yes, the feeling is to keep him going and then that’s right. But now he misses out in spite of scoring runs in the previous game and you get Deepak Hooda to bowl, which is fine.

“But as Ashish said, if you are picking him as a batter from the get-go and then getting him to bowl, that’s a different thing. But for him to come now and then the others to miss out.. look Shardul Thakur has been among the wickets. It’s a tough ask. I know VVS Laxman has got a lot on his plate, he is a fair man. With the squad of 14, this is what they have tried to do, given what happened in the previous game,” he said.

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