When Sanju Samson gets a breather from his cricket schedule, which is not often, the 19-year-old heads to the sandy ground adjacent to Mulloor, a fishing village — his home — to play football. The boys at the football club don’t hard tackle the guest player.
The special treatment Sanju receives while playing bare-foot football is not because he is the most famous resident of Vizhinjam but owes to his father, Vishwanath, being the coach of the amateur football club. The former striker, who represented Delhi in the 1984 Santosh Trophy, has rekindled his love for the game by coaching the sons of fishermen in Mulloor on a sandy patch that doubles up as the academy ground.
On Tuesday, when Sanju was picked for the first time in an Indian team, Vishwanath was in the midst of a coaching session.
“When I first heard that Sanju was picked to the Indian cricket team for ODIs and T20 s and will travel to England, I could not believe the good news. It is only later in the evening that I realised what my son had achieved,” Vishwanath said.
The former Delhi police constable was instrumental in shaping the careers of both his sons — Sanju and older brother Sally, an all-rounder. They learnt the basics in Delhi, but Vishwanath opted for voluntary retirement and the family moved to Vizhinjam when Sanju was not picked for the Delhi Under-13 team six years ago.
“I feared that the setback of not getting picked would affect Sanju so we moved to Kerala where he could start afresh,” Vishwanath added.
Sanju began his second stint with a century that came off just 55 balls while representing Trivandrum in an inter-district game.
Later in the same year, he made over 900 runs, which included three tons and a double century in an Under-13 tournament organised by the Karnataka State Cricket Association.Vishwanath continues to follow his first love while Sanju journeys the way his father may have hoped.