Sijomon Joseph — Kerala’s unlikely hero with the bat

Monumental effort brings the batsman in him to the fore.

A product of the Kerala Cricket Association’s academy system, he had played for India against England in the Youth Test two years ago in Nagpur. He took six second-innings wickets and scored 62 not out.   -  P.K. Ajith Kumar

He made only 56, but then, he was the only one to hit a fifty. He batted 148 balls, 78 more than anyone else.

Sijomon Joseph's monumental effort on a green-top, and in conditions ideal for pace bowling, played a significant part in Kerala's historic victory against Gujarat in the Ranji Trophy quarterfinal at the Wayanad cricket stadium, Krishnagiri.

And, he had not been picked for his batting, to begin with. The 21-year-old's primary duty was to bowl left-arm spin. He did that well, too, picking up 12 wickets from five matches.

Coach’s call

But, his coach Dav Whatmore asked him to go in at one drop in Krishnagiri, just as against Himachal Pradesh in the previous game in Nadaun. He had done his job in that must-win game for Kerala, reducing the pressure on the batsmen that followed him, though he made only 16 and 23.

Little wonder then that he strode confidently to the wicket in Kerala's second innings in Krishnagiri.

“I was determined to stay at the wicket as long as I could,” Sijomon, who hails from Kidangoor (near Pala), had said on the second day. “Batting was difficult and I had to take many blows from the quick bowlers, on my stomach, arms and even the head.”

All of that wasn't in vain, as his career-best first-class score helped Kerala make what would prove to be a winning total.

“It feels great to be part of a historic win,” he said. “I am glad that I could justify the faith my coach and team put in me.”

From the ranks

This is only his second Ranji season. He had made it to the team on account of his fine show in junior cricket.

A product of the Kerala Cricket Association’s academy system, he had played for India against England in the Youth Test two years ago in Nagpur. He took six second-innings wickets and scored 62 not out.

Sijomon loves to make use of the opportunities that come his way.