No competition with Karthik and Pant for the wicketkeeper's spot, says Sanju Samson
When Sanju Samson broke on to the Indian cricketing scene by scoring runs - and how - for Rajasthan Royals in his maiden IPL season in 2013, he was highly regarded by the fans across the country as an Indian team prospect and was tipped to replace MS Dhoni as India's wicketkeeper-batsman after the former skipper bids adieu to the sport.
As expected, he made his national debut a couple of years later against Zimbabwe, but to date, that remains the only International game he has played for the country.
He had some forgettable times after that: he was served a show-cause notice by the Kerala Cricket Association in December 2016 for allegedly breaking a bat in the dressing room, and then for leaving the match venue during the game against Goa without informing the team officials.
But he bounced back with a bang this year and once again, put himself in the reckoning for national selection. 2017 has been kind to him, as the 23-year-old scored 386 runs in the IPL at an average of 28 and a strike-rate of 142 for Delhi Daredevils. He also registered his maiden T20 century against Rising Pune Supergiant earlier this year.
He didn't stop there, and carried his form to the Indian domestic circuit.
In the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, Samson has amassed 577 runs in 10 innings at an average of nearly 58 with two centuries and three fifties and is one of the main reasons why Kerala managed to make it to the quarter-finals for the first time in Ranji Trophy (plate leagues not considered).
His next challenge will be against Vidarbha, who have been brilliant throughout the season and a win against Faiz Fazal and co. will put Kerala in the semi-final.
Sportskeeda caught up with the Kerala batsman ahead of his quarter-final clash. Here are the excerpts:
Q: What inspired you to play cricket and take this as your profession?
Just like a normal Indian kid, I used to play cricket near my house with my friends with a tennis ball. I was just five-years-old then. I love playing this sport and feel good whenever I play. I enjoy doing this. My passion and love for the sport has taken me here. I am grateful that this has become a part and parcel of my life now.
Q: You were so young when you got a break in your maiden IPL season. What made you adapt to the requirements of a tournament like the IPL?
When I got into the team, I had the backing of the team management, especially, coach Paddy Upton, mentor Rahul Dravid and technical director Zubin Bharucha. I was 17 or 18 years old (18 years when he made his debut for the Royals) then and they guided me well, gave me the right opportunity at the right time. They were always there for me if I needed something to be sorted out. It really helped me have a good break in the IPL.
Q: You have been associated with Rahul Dravid ever since you started playing IPL. He was your coach/mentor in the IPL and for India A matches. How is it to work with him?
Not only me, but a lot of youngsters who got into the Indian team recently and the ones who are waiting in the wings for their chances have benefited a lot because of Dravid sir. He has been the coach of India A and India under-19 for a while. So, whenever he is there with us, we all feel comfortable and he helps us sort out the issues we face in our game. It is really a blessing in disguise to have him with us.
Q: If you look at the reality, you have guys like Dinesh Karthik, Rishabh Pant etc. competing with you for the wicketkeeper-batsman's spot....
I don't think that there is some competition going on among us. I don't like to look at things in that perspective. I really love playing the sport and I am happy that I am getting the right opportunity to score runs. If I continue to do so, I will be there where I want to be one day. I don't know where exactly I will be after say, two years, but at present, I really enjoy my game.
Q. There were reports that you are in contention to be included in the Indian side for the ODI or T20I series against Sri Lanka. What are your thoughts on that?
It feels good that I am batting well and I am really enjoying my batting nowadays. I just want to continue the form and I just want to keep scoring whenever I get a chance to bat. The selections are not in my control. The only thing I can do is to score runs. If I keep scoring runs, I will be automatically considered and eventually, I will be there one day. I don't want want to focus on that right now as I have some important games coming up.
Q: In the past, you have batted both in the top-order and in the middle-order. Which one do you prefer? Where are you comfortable as a batsman?
My batting order differs from team to team. If the team management wants me to play in the middle order, I am happy to do that as I have done it before. I have also scored runs in the top order. I am happy to do both.
Q: How was the feeling when you were first picked in the Indian team for the tour of Zimbabwe in 2015?
As a youngster, my dream was to play cricket for India and it was a dream come true when I was picked in the Indian team. It was a special feeling.
Q: Kerala made it to the Ranji Trophy quarter-final for the first time (not considering the Plate League). What makes this current Kerala team so special?
I think the talent we have in Kerala is extraordinary. We always look to go out, showcase our talent and express ourselves. So we were always expecting to play well in the Ranji Trophy and qualify for the quarter-finals. We are happy that we made it this year and we want to make it big this time.