Sanju Samson came into Indian cricket with the reputation that he could become the next big thing. He was 16 when he made his T20 debut for Kerala, and in little over a year, was part of an IPL franchise. The teenager's temperament stood out, to the point that he made a half-century batting at No. 3 in only his second game for Rajasthan Royals. Eventually though, the surprise factor faded, and the pressure got to him. Two middling IPL seasons followed in 2015 and 2016 but, on Tuesday, he took a step towards putting those memories behind him with a maiden T20 hundred that set up Delhi Daredevils' biggest ever win.
"I am very happy about this day. It's one of the special days of my life," Samson said at the post-match press conference. "Every cricketer here in India, his dream is to play for Indian team, which is the world's best cricket team. So if you want to get into it, you have to be something special, you have to do something special. So I'm happy that I played one innings but there's a long way to go."
He was bought by the Daredevils in 2016, and despite playing all 14 matches that year, he was dismissed for less than 20 seven times and finished with an unimpressive strike-rate of 112. Now, after his team had begun the new season by losing a game they should have won, Samson walked out to bat in the second over and was 35 off 19 balls with six fours by the end of the Powerplay. Then after seeing off the Rising Pune Supergiant spinners, Imran Tahir, the No. 1-ranked bowler in limited-overs cricket, among them, he made 41 off 16 balls to help push the total to 205. There were times in the past when quality bowling would force Samson into choosing the wrong shot, but he was able to keep that weakness in check and later praised the Daredevils support staff for backing him.
"I think Rahul Dravid, Zubin Bharucha, Paddy Upton and each member of the team who has supported me throughout," Samson told iplt20.com. "Last IPL season was not a great season for me, but they supported me throughout and I dedicate this knock to them.
"I was 17 when I was with the Rajasthan Royals and since then I have been working with Dravid and feel very blessed to be learning under his guidance. Not too many people get this chance and I feel I am extremely lucky to have him around and guide me."
This success came on the back of a disappointing first-class season for Samson. Besides the lack of runs - he averaged 30.36 from 11 innings for Kerala - he was pulled up for disciplinary issues by the state association. It was alleged that he had left the team in the middle of a match, after being dismissed for a duck, and did not return until 8 or 9 pm. This led to an in-house inquiry and a KCA panel let Samson off with a warning. On Tuesday night, he said lows like that helped shape the person he was.
"You need to have bad times to learn what life is about, I think. If you keep on achieving success, I think, you do not learn. If you do mistakes in cricket, or if you do mistakes in life, you learn from it and you become a better person. I think my past has helped me become a better cricketer and a better human being."