Happy they got picked at IPL auction, says Sanju, Sachin’s coach

Biju George was happy to see his three wards - Sanju Samson, Sachin Baby and K.M. Asif getting picked by IPL franchises.

File photo of Sanju Samson with his coach Biju George at the Medical college grounds in Thiruvananthapuram.   -  S. GOPAKUMAR

When the IPL auction was going on in Bengaluru, SAI coach Biju George was in South Africa with the Indian women’s team as the fielding coach. The 50-year-old was a bit anxious as few of his trainees from the SAI coaching centre in Thiruvananthapuram were in the auction.

In the end three of his wards — Sanju Samson, Sachin Baby and K.M. Asif — were picked up by IPL teams. While Sanju Samson and Sachin Baby were expected to be picked, rookie medium pacer K.M. Asif turned a few heads when he was roped in by Chennai Super Kings.

“I am really happy for Asif. He struggled a lot to get recognition. He is player who has got tremendous potential Sanju’s final price surprised me,’’ said Biju from his base in South Africa.

K.M. Asif, who impressed everyone in the South Zone T20 championship with his raw pace, first came to Biju George as a shy lad who was recommended by a fellow coach. Biju was impressed by the work ethic of the youngster, who in a few years time under him developed into a seriously quick bowler.

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Sanju, Sachin and Asif are the three gems from the nondescript coaching centre at the Medical College ground which has now become the cradle of cricket in Kerala. Who is who of Kerala cricket in the last one decade has invariably been a trainee of the SAI coaching centre which has been functioning from the Medical College ground since 2004.

From Sanju Samson to former Ranji Trophy captains, Raiphy Vincent Gomez, Rohan Prem and to the current Ranji captain Sachin Baby, the centre has produced some of Kerala’s finest cricketers. The centre has around 70 full-time trainees and it goes to the credit of Biju George that no Kerala squad, whether it is senior or age group, is complete without a trainee from the centre.

Coaching is free and the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) supports the centre by providing the equipment and infrastructure. The centre has three wickets — two poly grass and one matting wicket. The bowling machine was provided free by Leverage company. The KCA has provided a physio and thrown open its gym free to the trainees of this centre.

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The SAI principal G. Kishore impressed with the results churned out by the centre turned it into a SAI extension centre. The centre has attracted players from all over Kerala. Some players have shifted their base to Thiruvananthapuram in order to train full-time at the centre while some especially from Northern districts come during summer holidays.

“When a player first comes to me I watch him closely then talk to him to find out his passion. Then I work on him to see if he good. Each year the number of trainees is growing and it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to give individual attention to each player but I try to spend as much as time possible with new trainees. Sanju and seniors like Sachin come here when they are in town. Before major tournaments they have individual sessions with me. Some players also approach me to fine tune their game,’’ said Biju George who despite all success has remained modest.

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