KOCHI: Those who have seen Sanju Samson train of late will tell you they are not surprised to see him receive a call-up to the Indian team for the T20I series against Bangladesh. “He has been training for three to four hours daily at the SAI coaching centre in Thiruvananthapuram. I’m not surprised that he got this call-up. It was due for all his efforts,” said Biju George, Sanju’s childhood coach and former fielding coach of Indian women’s team.
His double hundred in the Vijay Hazare Trophy worked as a catalyst as the wicketkeeper-batsman returned to the national set-up after four years. His only India appearance came against Zimbabwe in 2015 in a T20 international where he made just 19. Even though he is a highly rated player and the likes of Gautam Gambhir have publicly backed him, inconsistency has been his Achilles heel.
Kerala coach Dav Whatmore feels that Sanju can make a big impact, particularly in the shortest format. “I am very pleased for him and it’s not surprising. I’m sure he will do something and that’s the sort of player he is. He’s a wonderful T20 player and deserves a chance. He’s played well in Vijay Hazare and I’m very happy for him,” said Whatmore. Sanju is expected to be a back-up for first-choice wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant initially, but given his recent form, some feel he could squeeze his way in. Pant has been patchy of late and that could mean an opportunity for Sanju, at least in one of the three games.
“Earlier, when Sanju received national team call-ups, MS Dhoni was there. So there was no chance for anyone to break in. Dhoni is now getting closer to his retirement and now, Sanju will be competing with Pant. So he has a better opportunity to impress the selectors. The next-generation players are getting opportunities and so he has been in contention,” Kerala team assistant coach M Rajagopal said.
The player turning 25 on November 11 couldn’t time his double century knock any better. The Kerala batsman struck an unbeaten 212 against Goa in Bengaluru earlier this month. In the process, he surpassed Pakistan’s Abid Ali’s 209 not out to record the highest-ever List A score by a wicketkeeper.“He has been doing well in the IPL and his performances in Vijay Hazare were also good. I hope that this time, he can make it stick,” his Kerala teammate Sachin Baby said.
Squads for Bangladesh series T20is
Rohit Sharma (C), Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Sanju Samson, Shreyas Iyer, Manish Pandey, Rishabh Pant, Washington Sundar, Krunal Pandya, Yuzvendra Chahal, Rahul Chahar, Deepak Chahar, Khaleel Ahmed, Shivam Dube, Shardul Thakur.
Virat Kohli (C), Rohit Sharma, Mayank Agarwal, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Hanuma Vihari, Wriddhiman Saha (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma, Shubman Gill, Rishabh Pant.