He has been drawing praise from several quarters. Rahul Dravid is a huge fan. So is Shane Watson. And S Sreesanth. The good news is that Sanju Viswanath Samson is ready for life beyond Rajasthan Royals and the IPL. He is set for bigger things.
Not yet 20, the supremely talented wicketkeeper-batsman from Kerala was, on Tuesday, picked in the 17-man squad for the five ODIs and one Twenty20 International against England starting on August 25.
Both he and Railways leg-spinner Karn Sharma were rewarded for their good showing for India 'A' in the recently-concluded quadrangular one-day series in Australia recently. Samson tallied 244 runs, inclusive of fifties at an average of 81.33. Sharma, who made a whopping Rs 3.75 crore by playing for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 7, picked up three wickets in as many games Down Under. He conceded just 3.93 runs an over and even smashed 39 off just 16 balls in his only outing with the bat.
Several players who took part in the three-match series in Bangladesh — where Suresh Raina led — failed to find favour from Sandeep Patil & Co. Robin Uthappa — who led the 'A' side to victory in Australia but failed to inspire as a batsman — missed the bus. So did the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, Parveez Rasool, Kedar Jadhav, Akshar Patel, Manoj Tiwary, R Vinay Kumar, Wriddhiman Saha and the injured Amit Mishra.
Samson, who has been a household name thanks to his spunky batting for two summers now, took his first cricketing steps in New Delhi. A victim of the age-old 'favouritism' malice, he then moved base to his native Vizhinjam, a port town located near Kerala's capital city of Thiruvananthapuram. Nurtured by coach Biju George, he attended a Royals camp thanks to Sreesanth. There, Dravid took one look at him before prompting Raghu Iyer, the franchise's CEO, to "get the boy's signature".
Back to the squad, and Yuvraj Singh also failed to make cut. Mumbai pacer Dhawal Kulkarni, who fared well in the 'A' series, was also selected.
"It's a great feeling to be back in the squad," Kulkarni told dna. "It's a nice feeling. I was confident of getting a call-up because I did well in Australia. I kept to the basics and was focused on my game all the time," added the soft-spoken right-armer who was picked for the home series against the West Indies, but missed out on playing due to injury.
"It's an important opportunity and I will give put my 100 per cent if I get to play. I will keep my focus all the time. I have played for India 'A' in England. I did reasonably well there. I think I was the highest wicket-taker. That experience will come in handy," said Kulkarni, who has featured in 58 first-class games (181 wickets at 27.48) and 52 List A games (83 wickets at 25.73).
"I have got this opportunity after a long time and do not want to lose it. I have played domestic and first-class cricket for seven years. I hope to use that experience at the international level," he said.
MS Dhoni (C & WK), Virat Kohli (VC), Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja, R Ashwin, Stuart Binny, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Mohit Sharma, Ambati Rayudu, Umesh Yadav, Dhawal Kulkarni, Sanju Samson (WK), Karn Sharma
Date Fixture Venue Time (IST)
Aug 22 Warm-up game vs Middlesex Lord's, London 3:00 pm
Aug 25 First ODI County Ground, Bristol 3:00 pm
Aug 27 Second ODI Sophia Gardens, Cardiff 3:00 pm
Aug 30 Third ODI Trent Bridge, Nottingham 3:00 pm
Sep 2 Fourth ODI Edgbaston, Birmingham 3:00 pm
Sep 5 Fifth ODI Headingley, Leeds 3:00 pm
Sep 7 Only T20I Edgbaston, Birmingham 7:30 pm