THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Sijomon Joseph was expecting his Wednesday to be like any other Wednesday. Attending the Kerala U-23 cricket team's coaching camp being held at Thumba here, getting a call-up to the India U-19s was certainly not on his agenda.
However, while he was fine-tuning his bowling skills at the St Xavier's College Ground, news broke he was to represent India in the upcoming four-day series against the visiting England U-19s.
Relieved from U-23 camp, Sijo took a bus back to his village Mutholy in Kottayam district where he has been flooded with wishes from his friends, relatives, and locals ever since.
Sijo is part of a Kerala trio also including his U-19 teammates Rohan S Kunnummal and Daryl S Ferrario who have been named in the 15-member team and is the first from Kerala Cricket Association's academy setup to make it to the India U-19 side.
"It was rather unexpected. Though I have done well in recent times, I wasn't 100 per cent sure it would give me a place in India U-19, but thank God. I hope to make the most of this chance," said the left-arm off-spinner on Thursday.
“Rohan and Sijomon grew up through our academy system. Their selection is the result of a sound grassroots development programme carried out over the past decade. Along with Daryl, they have been consistent performers in various age-groups teams. It augurs well for the future of Kerala cricket,” KCA secretary Jayesh George told Express.
But before Sijo could even think of academies and age-group teams, he had his two elder brothers Lijomon and Lijumon to thank for pushing him to the sport.
"I used to take cricket as a hobby, but it was my brothers who forced me to attend a summer camp in 2010 when I was in the eighth standard," said Sijo.
Sijo became part of Cricket Academy and Sports Hostel (CASH) scheme of KCA at Cricket Academy, Mutholy where he was transformed from medium-pacer to a spinner by coach Jean K John.
The next year, he was promoted to the KCA Zonal Academy in Mannanam where he spent four years under Philip Mathew before moving to KCA Senior College Academy based at Sacred Heart College, Thevara.
Along the way, Sijo represented the state U-14, U-16 and U-19 sides picking up 41 wickets from six games captaining the U-19 side this season that earned the India call-up.
Not one to get complacent, Sijo is now working hard to brush up his batting skills. "In the modern game, it is important to be an all-round player. This season was a little disappointing when it came to scoring, but improving on that front will be a must to make it at the very top," the 19-year-old said.