Exciting prospect

R.V. MOORTHY

It was only Sanju Viswanadh Samson’s second IPL game (against Royal Challengers Bangalore) and he became the youngest to score a fifty in world cricket’s most glamorous league, writes P. K. Ajith Kumar.

All it takes the IPL to turn an unknown into a well-known is just one innings. Sanju Viswanadh Samson, 18, experienced it the other day when he smashed 61 runs off 43 balls to set up Rajasthan Royals’ six-wicket win, with just a ball to spare, against Royal Challengers Bangalore in Jaipur.

It was only Sanju’s second IPL game and he became the youngest to score a fifty in world cricket’s most glamorous league, beating the record of Shreevats Goswami of Bangalore, set in 2008. And he followed it up with another fine effort, as he top-scored for Rajasthan (40) in a losing cause against Kolkata Knight Riders. On his IPL debut, he had scored a vital 27 not out against King’s XI Punjab.

Those back home in Kerala following Sanju’s progress were not as much surprised by his stunning knock against Royal Challengers as the rest of the world. Ever since he first played for Kerala in 2007-08, in the South Zone under-13 tournament, he was earmarked for success. He had slammed 973 runs from five matches, with three hundreds and two fifties, at an average of 108.11; his highest was 266 against Hyderabad.

Runs continued to flow from his willow in various age-category tournaments. Two years ago, he scored 200 not out off just 138 balls in an under-16 match; Kerala’s grand total was 240 for one in that second innings against Goa.

He made his presence felt in the senior Kerala side too, scoring two hundreds in the Ranji Trophy this past season. He has also represented the India Under-19 team. He was signed by Kolkata Knight Riders last year, but didn’t get a game. When he finally got one, after sitting on the Royals’ bench for quite a while, he made the opportunity count.

“I am not at all surprised by Sanju’s success in the IPL,” says Kerala coach and former India opener Sujith Somasunder. “He is a gifted batsman with maturity beyond his years, especially when it comes to shot selection. The way he clobbered Murali Kartik against Bangalore alone proved his class.”

For Biju George, who has been coaching Sanju for the last six years, Sanju’s class seemed obvious right from the moment he first saw him bat in Thiruvananthapuram. “He had all the strokes and he had a very good technique too, at such a young age,” he says.

“He has always been a fast scorer. He wasn’t very keen about wicketkeeping, but I asked him to stay behind the stumps too, as I knew that would brighten his chances as a cricketer. He has always been a very good ’keeper, though not a spectacular one.”

Sanju’s success is all the more remarkable because he hails from Kerala, which has produced just two India players (S. Sreesanth and Tinu Yohannan). His emergence comes at a time when Kerala cricket is looking up; the team played some fantastic cricket over the past few months in various domestic tournaments. It wouldn’t be a surprise if more cricketers from Kerala hog the limelight in the near future.