Mitchell Johnson steaming in on a juicy wicket and delivering thunderbolts at 150kmph is not something to be kidding about. But even at just 18 years of age, Sanju Samson wasn’t exactly shivering in his boots, facing the new ball at the crucial number three position.
Factor in the angle, both away and into the right-hander, that the menacing Australian left-armer creates and the loss of as inspirational a skipper as Rahul Dravid, the calmness with which he batted against Mumbai Indians lets out plenty of promise — of being able to manage the pressures of both high-quality competition and the glamour that stardom brings upon an individual. That is a quality quite unlike the most successful cricketer Kerala has so far produced — S Sreesanth.
And there is reason the fearless youngster can be excused for not being able to put bat to a scorcher from Johnson that tailed in to hit his front pad, plumb early on. For three balls after being reprieved by the umpire’s poor judgement, he whipped a similar delivery to the mid-wicket fence with a firmness of wrists and sweetness of timing that Dravid himself — a master of on-side play — would have been proud of. For sure, Sanju is a quick learner.
And his reward while making a 47-ball 54 was the honour of the youngest batsman to register a half-century in Champions League, to go with the same title in the Indian Premier League, which he achieved earlier this year.
The latest admirer of the spunky cricketer is former India and current Mumbai Indians coach, New Zealander John Wright, who noted: “He is young and lucky that he is getting the opportunities. He really made a difference by batting so well.”
A man, boy rather, of few words, Sanju himself recognises that. “I am lucky to be playing for Rajasthan Royals. I like this wicket, the ball comes nicely onto the bat and I hope I can continue to play well,” Sanju said after the match.
While his audacity and strokeplay have won him many friends, it is not as if the soft-spoken cricketer is a finished article. A tendency to get too far across, forcing him to play around his front pad at times, and the slight hesitancy against variations of flight against quality spinners are something for him to work on.
Dravid himself is smitten by Sanju’s eagerness to learn, “Sanju is learning and growing fast. He has taken his chances to flourish. It is good for Indian cricket as well,” said Dravid.