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Touted as a prospective heir apparent for MS Dhoni, Sanju Samson made his international debut on a blustery evening in Bulawayo an year ago. It wasn’t by any stretch of imagination a memorable debut. He made only 19 runs in 24 balls. Then you couldn’t but feel sorry for the youngster, for he came to bat in the 16th over and had little time to settle his nerves.
Thereafter, though, his stocks plummeted dramatically, so much so that he doesn’t any longer sneak into any passing conversation pertaining to finding a suitable successor for Dhoni in the limited-over versions. That, he says, doesn’t affect him.
Much more concerning for the 21-year-old last year was his middling form in the Ranji circuit. Kerala’s most vaunted player, he made only 208 runs and a solitary hundred in 13 innings at a meagre average of 16. Not that he wasn’t equipped with the technique and temperament to prosper in the longer-format, but somehow he couldn’t reprise those consistently in first-class cricket, which was a stumbling block for him to be in consideration for the Tests matches too. An average of 36.11 doesn’t bode well for a top-order batsman.
But if the determination he demonstrated in his first knock of this season was any indication, he is keen to set that record straight. In his first innings of the new season alone, he scored nearly three fourth of the runs he had managed last year. Had not for the incessant showers that truncated the second day’s play between Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir, he could have even surpassed the tally. He ended the second day on 142.
The turnaround, he attributes to his Delhi Daredevils mentor and India A coach Rahul Dravid. “I’m learning a lot from him (Dravid). We keep on learning each and every day in every practice session. He is someone who can mentor us like anything. It’s a blessing for every youngster to be mentored by Dravid sir,” says Sanju, who had a reasonably good series with India A in Australia, the high point being a strokeful 87 in Mackay.
As much as the technical inputs, he learned from Dravid how to read a specific match situation. “You’ve to learn the situation, read the bowlers’ mind. You just can’t go out there and smash every ball. You’ve to stay out there and sometimes you may look ugly because the bowler is also prepared and he’s also there to take wickets. We should respect the bowlers,” he states.
But Sanju, who has given up wicket-keeping and captaining for his state to focus more on batting, knows one good knock doesn’t a summer make.
Brief scores: Kerala 282/7 in 96.2 overs (Sanju Samson batting 142, Jalaj Saxena 69; Beigh 4/76) vs Jammu & Kashmir.