It was a double delight for Sanju Samson as one good news was followed by the other on Monday morning. Sanju was at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here to undergo a fitness test before the Kerala team left for the KSCA trophy in Mysuru. No sooner had he arrived than, Kerala Cricket Association president TC Mathew conveyed to him the decision to appoint him as the skipper of the Kerala side for the KSCA Trophy which makes him the youngest captain in state’s cricket history. Sanju was caught off guard but his joy knew no bounds.
Little did he know a bigger surprise was to follow. Soon Mathew informed the youngster that he had received a call from the chairman of national selection committee, Sandeep Patil, informing him of the decision to replace an injured Ambati Rayudu with Sanju for the remainder of the Zimbabwe tour. “I didn’t expect it. I was just looking at playing well for Kerala in the KSCA trophy. This is a big surprise,” the 20-year old said.
This is the second time Sanju is earning a call-up to the Indian team. In August last year, he was included the Indian team for the five-match ODI series and the lone T20 against England. But all he could do in England was warm the bench.
Sanju didn’t have the best of seasons in domestic cricket last year and seemed to have fallen off selectors’ radar. In IPL, Sanju had a modest run in 2015 scoring 204 runs from 14 innings with a highest score of 76. Though he was the highest run-getter for Kerala in Ranji Trophy last year with 475 runs from eight matches, which included a double hundred, Sanju couldn’t pile up big runs consistently. And it is a facet of his game that he is keen to improve. “I will be looking to become more consistent and get big scores more frequently this season,” Sanju told TOI.
And to achieve the desired results, Sanju has put in the hard yards in the off-season. Soon after IPL, Sanju worked with his coach Biju George on every aspect of the game in detail for nearly seven hours a day at the cricket coaching centre of Sports Authority of India (SAI) at Thiruvananthapuram for over a month.”He would bat on a watered synthetic wicket for a long time to improve his skills against lateral movement of the ball bowled at a high pace followed by regular nets,” said Biju, who gave Sanjuspecializedtraining in wicket-keeping also.
Sanju didn’t keep wickets for Kerala last season but is now keen to don the gloves more often. “I have focused on developing the right mindset for wicket-keeping and tried methods such asvisualizationto improve my anticipation,” he said.
With Indian skipper MS Dhoni retiring from Tests and unlikely to carry on in the shorter formats for a very long time, Sanju is being touted as one of his likely replacements in future. But Sanju didn’t want to look too far ahead. “I’m not looking at the future like that and I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I’m only thinking about the present which is to get to Zimbabwe and play well if given an opportunity,” Sanju said.
Sanju wouldn’t be joining the Indian team for the third ODI to be played on Tuesday. But he will be in Harare in time for the two T20s starting on Friday and is hopeful of wearing the Indian jersey for the first time in a format that catapulted him into limelight.