On Sanju Samson's Twitter handle, there is a three-second video that could make you smile in these trying times. You would find a young, bearded Christian priest, in white flowing robes, bowling slow left-arm orthodox to the dashing batsman.
You would be impressed by the turn the priest extracts from the road of pitch – literally – just as you would be by the video's background. Those visuals are from a training session Sanju had in Kollam recently. He had driven down to the southern Kerala district from his home in Thiruvananthapuram, where a lockdown had been declared following a sudden spike in the coronavirus cases. He didn't want to miss out on his rigorous training.
“For the last 15 weeks, I had regular sessions of batting, running and gym, and I didn't want the lockdown to affect me,” Sanju tells Sportstar . “Fortunately, my friend has an academy at Kollam with adequate facilities,” he says. “And there were also people like Fr. Rebeiro to bowl at me.”
He is also grateful to former Kerala Ranji captain Raiphi Vincent Gomez, who set up nets on the terrace at his home for Sanju to practise. He is grateful to coaches Biju George, G. Jayakumar and Zubin Bharucha, director of cricket at Rajasthan Royals. “They have all been very supportive to me,” he says.
Sanju is delighted that he would soon be able to find out how those tough sessions – “the hardest training schedule I have ever had” – have helped.
And now that the 13th edition of the IPL is finally ready to take off – from September 19 in the UAE, Sanju is excited. “Like every cricketer, I have been eagerly waiting for the IPL to start,” he says. “I think it would lift the spirits of not just the players but that of the entire India and the rest of the cricketing world.”
He wants to win matches for Rajasthan Royals and does not see the IPL as selection trials for the Indian team. He isn't overly worried about his low scores earlier this year in the T20Is against Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
“In T20 cricket, you have to score quickly; that's what I have been doing at the IPL over the years,” he says. “You can't waste 10 balls when Virat Kohli is padded up to bat next.”
About the wickets in the UAE, he says they could be a bit slow. “And we have to play so many matches on three grounds, but the wickets would be good enough for batting,” he says. “In T20 cricket, you could get runs on any surface.”
Sanju adds the lockdown has given him plenty of time to introspect. "I have been thinking a lot about my cricket," he says. "I have also been fine-tuning my technique a bit. But I want to continue to bat the way I have always been. If you look closely at my batting, you would see that I have been winning more matches for my teams of late, though there have been more failures too. That is fine with me. What really matters is how you help the team's cause, more than the individual glory.”
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