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Sanju Samson — Sreesanth’s antithesis has the chance to salvage Kerala’s tainted reputation

Sanju Samson was the vice-captain of India Under-19 during the victorious Asia Cup campaign in UAE earlier this year © Getty Images
Sanju Samson was the vice-captain of India Under-19 during the victorious Asia Cup campaign in UAE earlier this year © Getty Images (File Picture)

Sanju Samson’s selection for the One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and T20s comes as a major shot in the arm for Cricket in Kerala. Despite the ever-growing passion in the game, the state has lagged behind in developing players for India. R Vishal looks at Samson’s marvelous ride to the top with a comparative study with pacer S Sreesanth.

Picked up from near obscurity by Indian batting legend Rahul Dravid from a practice session for Rajasthan Royals, Sanju Samson’s whirlwind journey has been straight out of fairytales. The Kerala wicketkeeper’s journey has been straight out of a fairytale and the heady success that has come his way continues to leave him unfazed.

Samson became a household name in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2013. Rajasthan became the team that was talked about for all the wrong reasons in the IPL.  The spot-fixing charges on three of Rajasthan’s team members, with a reputed name of S Sreesanth no less left cricket fans seething with rage and the game’s reputation thereby taking a huge dent.

Samson, with his mentor Dravid helped his team build the bridges that were burnt and built a solid reputation – at a tender age of 18. Sreesanth had taken his state teammate for a trail just before the start of IPL 2013. It took barely ten deliveries in the nets for the Dravid’s cricketing acumen to conclude that the teenager had the goods to go to the very summit of the cricketing ladder.

Soft-spoken and studious, humble and mature beyond his years, Samson leaped. When lesser men were found out when handed over responsibility at a tender age in the past, Samson relished it. He fine tuned his technique to gear up for bigger challenges and passed the litmus test over the next year with flying colours. A successful Champions League T20 and being the vice-captain of India Under-19 during the victorious Asia Cup campaign further highlighted his potential.

Samson performed with distinction in the ICC Under-19 World Cup 2014 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier in the year. However, one bad game n the knockout stages ended India‘s run in the tournament. Yet again, Samson was undeterred, IPL 2014 further consolidated his burgeoning potential and his run glut continued. The fact that he was a part of the provisional 30-man list for the ICC World T20 2014 showed that selectors had taken notice of this talent.

Samson being drafted into in the big league also comes as a shot in the arm for Kerala cricket. The football-crazy coastal state of Southern India induced sniggers amongst cricketing circles not so long ago. Hailing from the talent-rich stables of Mumbai, Abey Kuruvilla never represented his ancestral state and Tinu Yohannan made a blink-and-miss appearance in the early 2000’s. Despite his in-your-face antics and theatrical gimmicks, Sreesanth had his moments of brilliance too. In case of what might have been, the temperamental pacer’s carry and his ability to swing both ways had the best of batsmen in a spot of bother.

Samson comes as a breath of fresh air; highly rated with a firm head on his shoulders he has the wise old head of Dravid mentoring him. A fearless strokemaker with a compact technique to boot, Samson has the chance of showcasing what the highly rated next generation of Indian batsmen can offer. The list includes the likes of Unmukt Chand, Vijay Zol and Sarfaraz Khan. The 20-year old from Kerala’s capital city of Thiruvanthapuram, now has the chance to repair the tainted legacy left by his predecessor.

(R Vishal is a journalist and alumnus of the Asian College of Journalism. He can be followed on Twitter @vishhell)

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