KOCHI: In what could possibly be the most significant event in Kerala cricket since Sreesanth took the catch which won India the T20 World Cup in 2007, Sanju Samson has been appointed as the captain of Indian Premier League franchise Rajasthan Royals.
While there were other major events for the sport in Kerala, like the Sachin Baby led side reaching the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy in 2019 or most recently, Mohammed Azharuddeen scoring what was the second fastest fifty in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy history and the third fastest ever by and Indian in T20 format, Sanju's elevation as the captain surpasses it all for its sheer magnitude.
The 26-year-old Kerala boy will be leading a team that will have international cricketers lined up next to him in what is one of the biggest cricket competitions in the world.
It is the first time that a cricketer from Kerala has been bestowed with such an honour.
Sanju who was first signed by the franchise in 2013 and then rejoined them in 2018 is also only the third Indian to lead the side after Rahul Dravid and Ajinkya Rahane.
"It’s an absolute honour to have been announced as the captain of Rajasthan Royals. It’s a team that is so close to my heart, which I’ve been lucky enough to play for over the years, and I’m excited about the challenge that lies ahead of me as the leader of the team," Sanju was quoted as saying by Rajasthan Royals. He takes over from Australian Steve Smith who was not retained and the management felt that having an Indian captain was the way forward for the former champions.
"As the IPL has grown, the captaincy has become a year-round task, and as such strong local Indian leadership has become increasingly important. Sanju made his debut as a Royal, and it has been a joy to watch his development over the last 8 years. He is the ideal person to lead the Royals into the 2021 season," said Manoj Badale who is the lead owner of the club.
Sanju will be leading the likes of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler. The wicket-keeper batsman was recently given captaincy of the Kerala team for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and he almost led them to the knockouts but ended up finishing second behind Haryana in the group.
When asked about making Sanju the Kerala captain, head coach Tinu Yohannan had said that the swashbuckling batsman was ready for bigger roles. The former India pacer had also prophesied that Sanju would go onto take up bigger responsibilities in the future. "The Royals have had some wonderful captains over the years and I'm so grateful for all the time I've spent working with and learning from great leaders like Rahul Dravid, Shane Watson, Ajinkya Rahane and Steve Smith!! I now cannot wait to get started and look forward to the season ahead," said Samson.
The elevation of Sanju as captain of Rajasthan Royals could act as a catalyst for the further development of Kerala cricket.