IPL 2013 May 3, 2013

Samson grabs his biggest chance to shine

Sanju Samson might have entered the wider cricket-loving public's conscience with his brisk half-century against Royal Challengers, but that's not the first glimpse the Indian domestic circuit has had of his skills
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Sanju Samson typifies a young, 21st century, Indian cricketer. He learnt his early cricketing lessons in Delhi, then moved down south to play for Kerala, and then signed with the IPL franchise from the central-western state of Rajasthan.

It's here that Samson has made his biggest mark yet; Sanju's 63 off 41 balls while chasing 172 against Royal Challengers Bangalore set the foundation for Rajasthan Royals to extend they successful home run. Having made such an impact in just his second IPL game, 18-year-old Samson is suddenly being looked at with plenty of interest, but those who follow domestic cricket will know he has been making his presence felt for two years on the local circuit.

After creating ripples in age-group cricket, he was selected to represent India at the Under-19 Asia Cup. But a disappointing campaign with the bat meant he missed out on the U-19 World Cup last year. In the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season, he made his presence felt with two centuries despite missing three games with a niggle.

Former India batsman Sujith Somasundar noticed Samson's talent soon after taking over as the Kerala coach ahead of the last domestic season. "We had our first pre-season camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore, and he was easily one of those who appeared to be above the rest," Somasundar says. "And over the season, I realised that he has got the right discipline, great cricketing acumen, asks all the right questions and most importantly, is a quick learner."

While Samson and his elder brother Saly, a Kerala Under-25 player, have taken to cricket, it is football that's in their genes; though their father Samson Vishwanadh used to "follow" cricket closely, he was a footballer, even during his 22 years with the Delhi police as a constable. But after returning to his home state, Kerala, one of the major football hubs in India, Vishwanadh let his sons pursue their passion.

"Agreed, cricket is still not as big in Kerala as it is in the rest of the country. Kerala has won the Santosh Trophy [the premier domestic football tournament] so many times. I want my sons to win the Ranji Trophy for the state for the first time," Vishwanadh says.

Batting might be his forte, but Samson is solid with the gloves behind the stumps too. That wasn't the case when Somasundar took over as coach. Even though Samson appeared to be a "natural wicketkeeper" for Somasundar, he sensed that something was amiss.

"[Samson] wasn't keen on keeping wicket. He was very passionate about batting, while keeping to him was a mundane thing. Once he changed his attitude towards keeping and started enjoying it, with minor changes in his technique, he emerged as a reliable wicketkeeper."
Kerala coach Sujith Somasundar

"I realised after talking to him that he wasn't keen on keeping wicket. He was very passionate about batting and he used to feel that he could make his presence felt in the field, while keeping to him was a mundane thing," Somasundar says. "I had to change his attitude towards keeping.

"He mentioned that he was actually having many bad games with the gloves. That's when I had to explain it to him 'you might have kept badly, but it's not because of your [lack of] ability, but due to [lack of] interest. You have the ability but if you're not interested, you will suffer'. It didn't take him long to realise his potential as a wicketkeeper. Once he changed his attitude towards keeping and started enjoying it, with minor changes in his technique, he emerged as a reliable wicketkeeper."

Cricket may be his focus, but Samson is quite serious about his academic education too. Prior to joining Rajasthan Royals for the pre-IPL camp, he virtually ferried between Guwahati and Thiruvananthapuram to write his 12th grade examinations - he was named in the South Zone squad for the Deodhar Trophy, the inter-zonal one-day championship, but the dates of the tournament clashed with his examinations.

"He used to land in Thiruvananthapuram early in the morning, I used to pick him up from the airport and head straight to the examination centre. He would get freshened up at the school itself, write his paper and then I would drop him back at the airport," Vishwanadh says. "Since his childhood, he has been sincere when it comes to his studies. Even though he could hardly attend school due to his cricketing commitments, he would carry his school books wherever he went and would keep pace with class work."

Now he has got his chance to strut his stuff on a bigger stage and, through his knock against Royal Challengers, has shown glimpses of his talent. Time will tell just how well he utilises this platform.

Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • caught_knott_bowled_old on May 5, 2013, 3:59 GMT

    I see good technique and temperament in Sanju Samson. Calm player with good awareness of the situation. Doesn't seem to be flustered or pressurized by the occasion or the bowler he's facing. But he does need to become physically stronger so he can clear the ropes. Nonetheless, a good talent who is getting the exposure on a decent Royals team.

  • Vikas_Vadgama on May 6, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Would call him the Southern Tendulkar now. If he is groomed early, like Tendulkar, he can serve for long. IPL is fine, but finally he has to justify his talent playing for India. National pride is utmost important than playing club matches.

  • pull_shot on May 4, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    he should be sent to IND A tour to SA as dk is to champions trophy

  • SamRoy on May 4, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    Yes he is a talent. I think we need to groom him for the future and send him on A team tours (as an understudy to Karthik/Saha). Clearly more talented than Parthiv Patel, the inevitable first choice A team wicketkeeper.

  • on May 4, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    He was an eye catcher from the first match he played following Yagnik's injury His wicket keeping was exemplary though he didnt get much of a chance with the bat He is such a lovely clean straight hitter of the ball that he should do well in the longer form of the game One sincerely hopes the selectors will have the courage to take him as an understudy to Dhoni coming season so that he can soak in the atmosphere at the higher level of the game It will be disastrous if they let him back into the pool of mediocrity of the domestic season where he might not be able to raise the level of his game

  • NikhilNair on May 4, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Keep up the good work mate. Good luck!

  • Aashiq.kb on May 4, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    I felt so happy when Sanju started smashing the RCB bowlers all around the park....Partially bcoz of being a Keralite & mainly bcoz of seeing a future Indian wicket-keeper. I hope he wont be following the footsteps of Mr Sreesanth! Keep working hard Sanju..Am sure that you'll go places!! All the very best! :)

  • RajeshNaik on May 4, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    Damn good player. I was amazed at his ability to score quick runs in the national T 20 championship. Hope he does well and remains firmly on his feet!

  • on May 4, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    Sanju has a bright future and require some sponsership advance further. Thanks Srisanth for bringing him to RR. Best of luck boy

  • bigdhonifan on May 3, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    Sanju Samson is not spotted by Dravid. Its Sreesanth who recommended Sanju's and Sachin Baby's name to Rajastan Management. Give Sree his due...

  • caught_knott_bowled_old on May 5, 2013, 3:59 GMT

    I see good technique and temperament in Sanju Samson. Calm player with good awareness of the situation. Doesn't seem to be flustered or pressurized by the occasion or the bowler he's facing. But he does need to become physically stronger so he can clear the ropes. Nonetheless, a good talent who is getting the exposure on a decent Royals team.

  • Vikas_Vadgama on May 6, 2013, 4:07 GMT

    Would call him the Southern Tendulkar now. If he is groomed early, like Tendulkar, he can serve for long. IPL is fine, but finally he has to justify his talent playing for India. National pride is utmost important than playing club matches.

  • pull_shot on May 4, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    he should be sent to IND A tour to SA as dk is to champions trophy

  • SamRoy on May 4, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    Yes he is a talent. I think we need to groom him for the future and send him on A team tours (as an understudy to Karthik/Saha). Clearly more talented than Parthiv Patel, the inevitable first choice A team wicketkeeper.

  • on May 4, 2013, 5:47 GMT

    He was an eye catcher from the first match he played following Yagnik's injury His wicket keeping was exemplary though he didnt get much of a chance with the bat He is such a lovely clean straight hitter of the ball that he should do well in the longer form of the game One sincerely hopes the selectors will have the courage to take him as an understudy to Dhoni coming season so that he can soak in the atmosphere at the higher level of the game It will be disastrous if they let him back into the pool of mediocrity of the domestic season where he might not be able to raise the level of his game

  • NikhilNair on May 4, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Keep up the good work mate. Good luck!

  • Aashiq.kb on May 4, 2013, 2:38 GMT

    I felt so happy when Sanju started smashing the RCB bowlers all around the park....Partially bcoz of being a Keralite & mainly bcoz of seeing a future Indian wicket-keeper. I hope he wont be following the footsteps of Mr Sreesanth! Keep working hard Sanju..Am sure that you'll go places!! All the very best! :)

  • RajeshNaik on May 4, 2013, 1:44 GMT

    Damn good player. I was amazed at his ability to score quick runs in the national T 20 championship. Hope he does well and remains firmly on his feet!

  • on May 4, 2013, 0:07 GMT

    Sanju has a bright future and require some sponsership advance further. Thanks Srisanth for bringing him to RR. Best of luck boy

  • bigdhonifan on May 3, 2013, 20:55 GMT

    Sanju Samson is not spotted by Dravid. Its Sreesanth who recommended Sanju's and Sachin Baby's name to Rajastan Management. Give Sree his due...

  • Top-Spinner on May 3, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    He is a talent no doubt. The striking thing about his batting is his timing of the ball. Reminds me of Yuvraj. But if Dhoni follows Tendulkar's trend and decides to retire late then it may affect Sanju's career. This leads me to another point, why aren't ex cricketers like Dravid, Gavaskar, and Laxman able to spot more talent in the country? Surely, these cricketers are technical enough to spot and recommend to the selectors.

  • binu.emiliya on May 3, 2013, 19:30 GMT

    Sanju was in the U19 Asia cup squad but he was not contributing and ignored for the U19 WC and slectors opted Smit Patel of Gujrath and Smit Patel scored the winning Runs in the U19 final match with his skipper U Chand.Both Smit and Sanju done good in domestic matches but Sanju got a chance in RR with great Dravid as mentor and skipper and he is doing great Being a Keralite i am happy and proud about his acheivement and wishing him all the best.Same time i am thinkng why Smit Patel is not getting a chance? KXIP or Pune should have select him

  • Provost on May 3, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    good. Keep your heads down and don't become another bisla.....

  • Professor.Biscuit.Khan on May 3, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    This kid looks like a good prospect for Indian Team.

    So far, IPL has produced only 2 quality Ind Cricketers - Kohli and Aswhin.

    Could this Samson kid be the next ?

  • Batmanindallas on May 3, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    If he keeps it grounded and not act out like his senior from the state-he has a bright future. He seems to be a keeper in Dhoni mold and age is on his side

  • on May 3, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Great talent ! Indian selectors need to consider him for international matches.

  • on May 3, 2013, 15:44 GMT

    He impressed me with his batting that is why he is in my ipl team #futurelegend

  • Naresh28 on May 3, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    I watched Sanju in just one IPL match and was impressed with his batting. Just the other day I commented on some players who were making the public catch eye thru the IPL. I mentioned how talented Sanji was and today an article follows about him. He certainly looks like a future prospect, but is still off. His name was in the U19 world cup squad.

  • elminzo on May 3, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    Apart from his cricketing talents, another thing going for Samson is his age.Presently 18, he will be 22-23 by the time Dhoni retires, a ripe age to enter international cricket. That is of course, assuming Dhoni is able to maintain his intent, form and fitness for the next 4-5 years. Talented keeper-batsmen like Karthik and Saha missed out on this front.If he continues to perform in the !st class circuit, Samson is clearly an India prospect.

  • on May 3, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    Kudoos to Sanju, I have mentioned before itself in my comments when Kerala was making heavy inroads in domestic cricket this season about Sanju...he is a real talent and needs to be groomed well.......also we got another player who still havn't got a chance in this IPL in Sachin Baby..watch out for him too

  • on May 3, 2013, 10:48 GMT

    Kudoos to Sanju, I have mentioned before itself in my comments when Kerala was making heavy inroads in domestic cricket this season about Sanju...he is a real talent and needs to be groomed well.......also we got another player who still havn't got a chance in this IPL in Sachin Baby..watch out for him too

  • elminzo on May 3, 2013, 12:31 GMT

    Apart from his cricketing talents, another thing going for Samson is his age.Presently 18, he will be 22-23 by the time Dhoni retires, a ripe age to enter international cricket. That is of course, assuming Dhoni is able to maintain his intent, form and fitness for the next 4-5 years. Talented keeper-batsmen like Karthik and Saha missed out on this front.If he continues to perform in the !st class circuit, Samson is clearly an India prospect.

  • Naresh28 on May 3, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    I watched Sanju in just one IPL match and was impressed with his batting. Just the other day I commented on some players who were making the public catch eye thru the IPL. I mentioned how talented Sanji was and today an article follows about him. He certainly looks like a future prospect, but is still off. His name was in the U19 world cup squad.

  • on May 3, 2013, 15:44 GMT

    He impressed me with his batting that is why he is in my ipl team #futurelegend

  • on May 3, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Great talent ! Indian selectors need to consider him for international matches.

  • Batmanindallas on May 3, 2013, 15:52 GMT

    If he keeps it grounded and not act out like his senior from the state-he has a bright future. He seems to be a keeper in Dhoni mold and age is on his side

  • Professor.Biscuit.Khan on May 3, 2013, 18:27 GMT

    This kid looks like a good prospect for Indian Team.

    So far, IPL has produced only 2 quality Ind Cricketers - Kohli and Aswhin.

    Could this Samson kid be the next ?

  • Provost on May 3, 2013, 18:49 GMT

    good. Keep your heads down and don't become another bisla.....

  • binu.emiliya on May 3, 2013, 19:30 GMT

    Sanju was in the U19 Asia cup squad but he was not contributing and ignored for the U19 WC and slectors opted Smit Patel of Gujrath and Smit Patel scored the winning Runs in the U19 final match with his skipper U Chand.Both Smit and Sanju done good in domestic matches but Sanju got a chance in RR with great Dravid as mentor and skipper and he is doing great Being a Keralite i am happy and proud about his acheivement and wishing him all the best.Same time i am thinkng why Smit Patel is not getting a chance? KXIP or Pune should have select him

  • Top-Spinner on May 3, 2013, 19:32 GMT

    He is a talent no doubt. The striking thing about his batting is his timing of the ball. Reminds me of Yuvraj. But if Dhoni follows Tendulkar's trend and decides to retire late then it may affect Sanju's career. This leads me to another point, why aren't ex cricketers like Dravid, Gavaskar, and Laxman able to spot more talent in the country? Surely, these cricketers are technical enough to spot and recommend to the selectors.