THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It wasn't very long ago that Kerala wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju V Samson was being touted as the heir apparent to the legendary Mahendra Singh Dhoni in the Indian cricket team. However, despite MSD retiring from Test cricket almost three years ago, his struggles in the shorter formats and age, Sanju surprisingly is yet to break into the senior team.
The 22-year-old's only international appearance remains to be a T20I against Zimbabwe in July 2015. He was also part of the 17-member squad for the English tour in 2014 but remained an understudy of the India captain. It is only fair to say that Sanju hasn't knocked on the doors of the Indian selectors as he has failed to take that final step in the last two domestic seasons.
He has been overlooked for veterans like Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik while others like K L Rahul and 20-year-old Rishabh Pant look to be ahead in the queue at the moment.
"This is going to be a very crucial season for Sanju when you look at his Team India ambitions and the performance of other players who are vying for the spot," said India women's fielding coach Biju George who nurtured Sanju.
That is why Sanju's 112- run knock against Jammu and Kashmir at the KCA - St Xavier's College Ground in Thumba here on Wednesday assumes importance.
On a spinning track with his teammates falling like flies around him, Sanju played cautiously but scoring at a decent pace passing 50 in 73 balls and his maiden ton of the first-class season off 148 balls.
"Playing a good innings takes a lot of pressure out of your on and off the pitch. It was a challenge on this track as the ball had started turning from the start. I have always wanted to score on a track like this and had prepared beforehand to do that," said Sanju after the day's play.
"Lots of thoughts cross your mind from the start of an innings. It would be a lie if I said thoughts, like scoring a hundred and improving your Team India chances, aren't there in my mind. But I have to remove all the unwanted thoughts and take one ball at a time bringing my mind back to the present," said Sanju.
After a troubled 2015-16 season in which he was in the news for a lack of form and disciplinary action by the Kerala Cricket Association, Sanju is now working harder than ever under his new batting coach G Jayakumar.
"I have worked on my technique with Biju sir as well as my new batting coach Jayakumar. I am enjoying the game at the moment and if you are doing that the results are bound to come," said the Delhi Daredevils batsman.