IPL 2014 January 10, 2014

Talent and temperament aplenty in teenaged Samson

Sanju Samson has shown a cool head under pressure and the skills to treat international bowlers with disdain, when given the chance by Rajasthan Royals. Come IPL 2014, he'll have more such opportunities, having been retained by the franchise
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Sanju Samson recollects what happened one January afternoon last year precisely. He was in Jaipur, attending the selection trials being conducted by Rajasthan Royals. Sreesanth, the former India and Rajasthan Royals fast bowler, banned for life by the BCCI for spot-fixing in the IPL, had taken Samson to the trials.

After IPL 2012, Kolkata Knight Riders, the first franchise to scout and pick Samson, had severed ties with him. Samson returned to Kerala, the state he plays cricket from, anxious.

"I can never forget the day when I attended the Rajasthan Royals selection trials. Sreesanth bhai took me there last January. After the IPL and Champions League in 2012, Knight Riders told me that the BCCI had asked the teams to trim the squads and they had decided to drop me and they were sorry about that. So I never expected another IPL team soon," Samson told ESPNcricinfo last month, during the Ranji Trophy match between Kerala and Himachal Pradesh in Telicherry.

However, Sreesanth had been impressed by Samson's attitude and batting and wanted the 18-year-old to play for Royals. "One day I was batting in front of Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton. I started playing strokes," Samson said. "It was my day and I just expressed myself in front of a legend like Rahul Dravid."

Samson will always cherish what happened next. "He [Dravid] came and directly told me, 'Sanju, you have a very special talent and I would really love to make you play in my Rajasthan Royals team. Would you play for us?' He asked me like this. That question really shocked me. I was really surprised and excited, and wanted to record that moment in my memory. He had seen me for barely two days. So what he said to me, I never expected that," Samson said, a big smile lighting up his face.

Samson still cannot believe. But on Friday, he became one of the five players retained by Royals ahead of the 2014 season. Along with Stuart Binny (Royals) and Manan Vohara (Kings XI Punjab), Samson is one of only three uncapped India players to be retained among the 24 cricketers held back by the franchises. Samson is the youngest of them all.

Before today, Samson hit the national headlines when he hit a fearless half-century, in only his second match for Royals, in an exciting chase against Royals Challengers Bangalore. Although that was the only fifty he could register in the 11 IPL matches, Samson raised his bat to three half-centuries during the Champions League T20 in September-October, where Royals finished runners-up. One of those half-centuries came in the final, which was against Mumbai Indians.

Chasing a tall target of 202, Royals lost Kusal Perera quickly. It did not matter to Samson, who displayed temperament and an alert eye to pick gaps. He blazed eight boundaries in his 50. When Samson departed in the 12th over Rajasthan were 117, but they faltered. It was an evening when Samson turned franchises' heads.

****

Samson is the younger of the two sons of a former constable in the Delhi Police, who now runs a petrol station near Trivandrum - his father moved back to Kerala when Samson was 10. A friend of his father introduced Samson to Biju George, who has remained his coach since.

Living in Vizhinjam, a harbour town south of Trivandrum, Samson and his brother Sally would commute roughly 25 kilometres every day, changing two buses to attend George's camp, which is held at the Medical College Grounds in Kerala's capital city. "We would travel almost two hours to get to the nets. It was not boring on the way there because we were excited to get there. On the return leg, though, it would be tiring," Samson said. But he never shirked training.

****

It is easy to see Samson is a hard-hitting batsman. But that is just one part of his skillsets. Samson plays strokes all around the wicket. According to Kerala coach Sujith Somasunder, Samson has become better with his shot selection. He is very decisive with his shot-making now, the coach said: "If there is a shot he thinks is on, he will play it."

Another factor that aids Samson, is his ability to stay in the present, which allows him to remain sensible at crucial moments. That was on show last week in the Under-19 Asia Cup final, which India won. Samson was one of his team's two centurions.

It is this cool temperament that has allowed him to play international bowlers in tight situations, without getting affected by the atmosphere and occasion. Remember, Samson has just turned 19. But in a one-on-one communication with him, you can plainly see his clarity of thought. He seems to listen to every word, but only respond to what is important.

Last week when Royals sent him the offer letter for retention, Samson did not have any doubts. He signed it instantly. He explained why that is: "Within 20 days spent with Royals last year, I realised it was like playing for my home team. That is when I decided I was going to stick with them as long as possible."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Unnikuttan on January 11, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Hope he remains grounded and goes on to play on for India. From what i have heard he's quite humble ad down to earth, based on interactions with him mentioned by others. Endorsements and sponsorships will follow and its easy to get temped. If he can be what he is now even after all the fan following, there is no reason why he cannot be a long term find for India. What selectors need to do is give more chances to him as a batsman how they are doing for Rohit Sharma (7 years and counting special talent)

  • Sagarneel on January 17, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    When a special talent meets a special mentor, amazing things happen. Having Dravid as his mentor is the best thing that could have happened to this kid. Sanju has a wonderful future ahead of him.

  • on January 16, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    Ray of hopes for Team India, youngsters doing well. Wish you great success.

  • Nampally on January 15, 2014, 16:57 GMT

    Sanju Samson reminds me very much of Budhi Kunderan, former Indian WK/Batsman. Kunderan was brilliant attacking batsman who lost his place in the Indian XI to Engineer- partly due to clash of personality with Skipper Pataudi. Like Samson, Kunderan was from a poor family & when he first played for India in Tests, his white pants were altered ones from his Dad's & his WK gloves were borrowed from WK Thamhane, whom he replaced. Samson is at least financially lucky,thanks to IPL's lucrative contract which has helped young Cricket talent. Samson is similar attacking batsman to Kunderan + had the backing of Dravid. He also has the advantage of showing his talent much better thru' various competitions- U-19 World Cup, IPL contract & Ranji for Kerala. I feel sad for Kunderan, who even had to leave India & play in Scotland to make a living! Kunderan died a poor man, couple of years back. Samson should thank his lucky stars for being born in the modern Era & take a lesson from Kunderan's Life!

  • on January 15, 2014, 10:08 GMT

    sanju has the talent.. it would be sure that after four or five years he will wear wicket keeper glow for india.. though he is a good stroke player and finisher he will be placed in the place of MSD.. What ever it is he would have the patient for the coming 5 years. good luck..

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on January 15, 2014, 0:45 GMT

    Can say he earned his spot with performances for Royals last season.

  • dariusaks on January 14, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    The hallmark of a great sporting hero is middleclass origin + talent laced with humbleness and young Samson ticks all the right columns for the same. After the Fab 5 left, Indian cricket definitely needs one amidst all the arrogance personified youngsters like Kohli and No-hit Sharma.

  • on January 14, 2014, 15:25 GMT

    samson you are so lucky to have a conversation with rahul bhai like this and i also wish you a better future to be one of the most young talent come to know through IPL and meet the great leagend rahul bhai .

  • Sir_Ivor on January 14, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    Sujith Thomas any reason why you say that ?

  • Sunnyside2711 on January 14, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    I feel vindicated. I remember being ridiculed in office when I talked about him before IPL 2013. Having heard about him since he was 14 and watched him in Medical college grounds in trivandrum, Samson has been a big hope for keralites. Hope he retains his composure amid all adulation. and Rahul Dravid: What can I say apart from just one word "Respect"

  • Unnikuttan on January 11, 2014, 5:12 GMT

    Hope he remains grounded and goes on to play on for India. From what i have heard he's quite humble ad down to earth, based on interactions with him mentioned by others. Endorsements and sponsorships will follow and its easy to get temped. If he can be what he is now even after all the fan following, there is no reason why he cannot be a long term find for India. What selectors need to do is give more chances to him as a batsman how they are doing for Rohit Sharma (7 years and counting special talent)

  • Sagarneel on January 17, 2014, 8:28 GMT

    When a special talent meets a special mentor, amazing things happen. Having Dravid as his mentor is the best thing that could have happened to this kid. Sanju has a wonderful future ahead of him.

  • on January 16, 2014, 2:53 GMT

    Ray of hopes for Team India, youngsters doing well. Wish you great success.

  • Nampally on January 15, 2014, 16:57 GMT

    Sanju Samson reminds me very much of Budhi Kunderan, former Indian WK/Batsman. Kunderan was brilliant attacking batsman who lost his place in the Indian XI to Engineer- partly due to clash of personality with Skipper Pataudi. Like Samson, Kunderan was from a poor family & when he first played for India in Tests, his white pants were altered ones from his Dad's & his WK gloves were borrowed from WK Thamhane, whom he replaced. Samson is at least financially lucky,thanks to IPL's lucrative contract which has helped young Cricket talent. Samson is similar attacking batsman to Kunderan + had the backing of Dravid. He also has the advantage of showing his talent much better thru' various competitions- U-19 World Cup, IPL contract & Ranji for Kerala. I feel sad for Kunderan, who even had to leave India & play in Scotland to make a living! Kunderan died a poor man, couple of years back. Samson should thank his lucky stars for being born in the modern Era & take a lesson from Kunderan's Life!

  • on January 15, 2014, 10:08 GMT

    sanju has the talent.. it would be sure that after four or five years he will wear wicket keeper glow for india.. though he is a good stroke player and finisher he will be placed in the place of MSD.. What ever it is he would have the patient for the coming 5 years. good luck..

  • electric_loco_WAP4 on January 15, 2014, 0:45 GMT

    Can say he earned his spot with performances for Royals last season.

  • dariusaks on January 14, 2014, 18:08 GMT

    The hallmark of a great sporting hero is middleclass origin + talent laced with humbleness and young Samson ticks all the right columns for the same. After the Fab 5 left, Indian cricket definitely needs one amidst all the arrogance personified youngsters like Kohli and No-hit Sharma.

  • on January 14, 2014, 15:25 GMT

    samson you are so lucky to have a conversation with rahul bhai like this and i also wish you a better future to be one of the most young talent come to know through IPL and meet the great leagend rahul bhai .

  • Sir_Ivor on January 14, 2014, 15:19 GMT

    Sujith Thomas any reason why you say that ?

  • Sunnyside2711 on January 14, 2014, 13:02 GMT

    I feel vindicated. I remember being ridiculed in office when I talked about him before IPL 2013. Having heard about him since he was 14 and watched him in Medical college grounds in trivandrum, Samson has been a big hope for keralites. Hope he retains his composure amid all adulation. and Rahul Dravid: What can I say apart from just one word "Respect"

  • on January 14, 2014, 12:19 GMT

    i know his coach Mr. BIJU GEORGE and he i believe is the one who keeps sanju grounded and focussed on his goals. A real talent this boy is, u can see just hw cool he is under pressure like steve waugh or dhoni, even though such comparisons might be early. and good to see samson acknowledging the role sreesanth played in getting him noticed.

  • Renit on January 14, 2014, 11:59 GMT

    Hez a true LEGEND in the making n he will definitely play for a long time n he will make the country proud. The guyz got right attitude coz he was offered more than 4 crores by few other IPL teams, but he decided to stick onto the team which provided him right opportunity n did not run after money like few othr RR players in the past(read Sir Jadeja). I somehow feel the players like Sanju will be taking the legacy of FAB5(SRT, RD, SG, VVS n Kumble) forward n not the current so called stars in the team.

  • on January 14, 2014, 9:23 GMT

    He is a very talented player and good fortune for him. Presume the Kerala visual media will not spoil his career!

  • SanjuKarthikeyan on January 13, 2014, 13:11 GMT

    You said it - "Clarity of thought", lets pray he will possess it always.Keep going mate, you are blessed , make most out of it !

  • vipinchirackal on January 13, 2014, 11:00 GMT

    surprised by the other side of sreesanth.he has helped three kerala players to play ipl.sanju is really down to earth person and player.he is as cool as dhoni.excellent strooke play and he got one double century and one century in the consecutive matches for kerala in this renji trophy.it denotes he has the ability to play long innings also.india need to take samson and zol for their tours and let them watch the seniors closely and analyse how they play the international matches .it will help them a lot to be indias spearheads in the 2018 world cup.

  • on January 12, 2014, 13:40 GMT

    Though Sanju is regarded as a special talent. i think that sanju should play for another 3-4 years in First class , then only he should be considered for TEAM INDIA .

  • DaisonGarvasis on January 12, 2014, 7:53 GMT

    When you see a "long race's horse", you just know. Here's is one!!!

  • on January 12, 2014, 4:25 GMT

    "He [Dravid] came and directly told me...........Would you play for us? .........yes I read it right...how much more humble can a person be?

  • vik56in on January 12, 2014, 0:08 GMT

    Sanju Samson is actually more talented than Unmukt Chand and Baba Aprajith.But since he plays for Kerala he didn't come up.Now the IPL exposure has changed all that.

  • on January 11, 2014, 20:12 GMT

    Surprisingly, he still plays for India U19.

  • on January 11, 2014, 18:34 GMT

    Sanju - The Indian Lara... I love this Kid... Want him to play pull shot better... He has the temperament and talent to play for India now itself. Hope BCCI acknowledge his worth soon. I wish to be his first fan ever whether he plays for India or not.

    All the best Sanju..

  • SRAM20 on January 11, 2014, 16:50 GMT

    Learn as much as you can from Dravid. He is the best guy to be mentoring you right now. We need you to replace Dhoni in test cricket when he eventually moves on/retires. And we need a guy who has the technique and the temperament to bat in challenging conditions, and yet be a good keeper. Indian cricket will benefit greatly if that happens! The test team is building up pretty well with batsmen like Pujara, Kohli, Rahane. Adding Samson to that lineup would make it even more tight and solid!

  • YogifromNY on January 11, 2014, 14:42 GMT

    Sanju is indeed a special talent and I feel confident that being in the Royals' team will be fantastic for him, given that Dravid and Paddy Upton are there. He is a batsman and hence I feel more confident that he will be nurtured in India and not stunted in his development the way a fast bowler would be (Indian cricket is a place where promising fast bowlers go to die professionally speaking, after all!).

    Even though I am from Mumbai, I have been a supporter of this scrappy little team since the inception of the IPL when Shane Warne led them to such success. Dravid's another such great who's doing superb work at RR. Hats off to the RR establishment and owners!

  • Batmanindallas on January 11, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Now wish would get Zol and Kedar from Maharastra...that would make me want to support RR

  • class9ryan on January 11, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    Dravid was just too humble there to ask Samson to play for his team, shows the quality of the Wall. I hope Samson goes to play much better in the future. There is also Vijay Zol from Maharahtra who looks highly talented, I hope Rajasthan buy him.

  • on January 11, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Young talent with lot of potential to become a star in the making and intelligent and well matured beyond his age. Good luck Sanju! Very exciting prospect.

  • on January 11, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    I have spotted your talent even before Dravid. I knew you have special talent when you just played your first Ranji Trophy.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:32 GMT

    He is the next Indian keeper after Dhoni, mark my word.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:17 GMT

    Eagerly waiting to see him replace Dhoni in the test side. Seems Samson has a better technique to cope with in the longer version than Dhoni. MSK holds his test place thanks to his captaincy alone.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    We the Indian fans are asking a question now. Sanju , while the IPL and all is good for exposure, will you score tons and tons of runs in the domestic circuit, A tours and make it to the Indian test team soon? There is a place waiting for you in the middle order.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    As a malayali, i am someone who hopes and prays for ur success...After Sreesanth, u have pretty much become the face of Kerala cricket...I am sure you'll make it to the Indian team in the near future...You have really impressed everyone with ur performances for the Royals, India A and also for Kerala...Your character and behavior on and off the field has also been impressive...All the very best..

  • vaidyar on January 11, 2014, 4:06 GMT

    'Sanju, you have a very special talent and I would really love to make you play in my Rajasthan Royals team. Would you play for us?' This made me laugh. This is so Dravid-like. People would be gasping with jaws open and he'd say something like this as if you're the big guy!

  • vaidyar on January 11, 2014, 4:06 GMT

    'Sanju, you have a very special talent and I would really love to make you play in my Rajasthan Royals team. Would you play for us?' This made me laugh. This is so Dravid-like. People would be gasping with jaws open and he'd say something like this as if you're the big guy!

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:04 GMT

    As a malayali, i am someone who hopes and prays for ur success...After Sreesanth, u have pretty much become the face of Kerala cricket...I am sure you'll make it to the Indian team in the near future...You have really impressed everyone with ur performances for the Royals, India A and also for Kerala...Your character and behavior on and off the field has also been impressive...All the very best..

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:10 GMT

    We the Indian fans are asking a question now. Sanju , while the IPL and all is good for exposure, will you score tons and tons of runs in the domestic circuit, A tours and make it to the Indian test team soon? There is a place waiting for you in the middle order.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:17 GMT

    Eagerly waiting to see him replace Dhoni in the test side. Seems Samson has a better technique to cope with in the longer version than Dhoni. MSK holds his test place thanks to his captaincy alone.

  • on January 11, 2014, 5:32 GMT

    He is the next Indian keeper after Dhoni, mark my word.

  • on January 11, 2014, 7:28 GMT

    I have spotted your talent even before Dravid. I knew you have special talent when you just played your first Ranji Trophy.

  • on January 11, 2014, 7:29 GMT

    Young talent with lot of potential to become a star in the making and intelligent and well matured beyond his age. Good luck Sanju! Very exciting prospect.

  • class9ryan on January 11, 2014, 9:35 GMT

    Dravid was just too humble there to ask Samson to play for his team, shows the quality of the Wall. I hope Samson goes to play much better in the future. There is also Vijay Zol from Maharahtra who looks highly talented, I hope Rajasthan buy him.

  • Batmanindallas on January 11, 2014, 14:30 GMT

    Now wish would get Zol and Kedar from Maharastra...that would make me want to support RR

  • YogifromNY on January 11, 2014, 14:42 GMT

    Sanju is indeed a special talent and I feel confident that being in the Royals' team will be fantastic for him, given that Dravid and Paddy Upton are there. He is a batsman and hence I feel more confident that he will be nurtured in India and not stunted in his development the way a fast bowler would be (Indian cricket is a place where promising fast bowlers go to die professionally speaking, after all!).

    Even though I am from Mumbai, I have been a supporter of this scrappy little team since the inception of the IPL when Shane Warne led them to such success. Dravid's another such great who's doing superb work at RR. Hats off to the RR establishment and owners!