Meet Sanju Samson, Rajasthan Royals' teenage dynamite
Son of a national football player, Sanju Samson is IPL's latest find. A member of the under-19 junior Asia Cup squad, Samson was first signed by KKR last season but never got a game. Backed by Rahul Dravid, the teenager is making his presence felt for Rajasthan Royals this season
The latest star on the cricket horizon is Kerala's teenage sensation Sanju Samson and his middle name - Viswanath - is not known to many.
For the 18-year-old Sanju, after his dream debut for Rajasthan Royals last week in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the name Viswanath has however started to gain significance.
On Monday, Samson scored a 41-ball 63 and won the Man of the Match award as Rajasthan Royals defeated Royal Challengers Bangalore by four wickets in Jaipur. At 18 years, 169 days, Samson is the youngest to score an IPL fifty!
"Oh, the name Viswanath has nothing to do with our country's most gifted cricketer G.R. Viswanath. Since my father's name was P. Viswanath, I got that name and it followed to my son. Now with cricket the passion of both my sons, which father would not like his kids to emulate the legend," said his proud father Samson Viswanath, a former Delhi Police constable.
Viswanath has two sons. The elder one, Saly Samson, is in his second year of college and plays for the state Under-25 cricket team while the younger one has just found instant stardom after he kept wickets for Rajasthan Royals, taking three catches and making the winning hit in his unbeaten 27-run-knock against Kings XI Punjab on Sunday.
Sanju is also a star on Facebook now. His timeline has a number of pictures of him in cricket gear and those of his friends - and postings by well-wishers complimenting him on his IPL showing.
Viswanath said even though he played for Delhi in the 1994 national football championship (Santosh Trophy), cricket was the first love for both his sons.
"It was only after his Sunday performance that our neighbours came to know that he is the boy next door," said Vishwanath, who now is a football coach. He took voluntary retirement from Delhi Police in 2009 and the entire family returned to their hometown in Thiruvananthapuram.
Vishwanath hails from a fishing hamlet on the city's outskirts, but the family moved to a rented home in the city to facilitate the two youngsters' cricketing.
"Since both my children are always travelling, we decided to move to the city so that their travelling is made comfortable," added the father.
Sanju, Viswanath says, got a huge morale booster after Indian speedster and statemate S. Sreesanth became his friend and advisor.
Obviously, Sreesanth had a hand in Rajasthan Royals signing Sanju this season. He was among the four picked from the talent pool, Kerala ODI captain Sachin Baby, Mumbai left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh and Jharkhand seamer Rahul Shukla being the others.
Sanju was signed by Kolkata Knight Riders last season, but didn't get a game. His next big break came when he was selected in India's Under-19 side for the Asia Cup. His poor run in Malaysia, scoring 14 runs in three games, saw him lose his place in the Under-19 World Cup squad for Australia.
Missing the World Cup only made him more determined to succeed and he went on to score 377 runs in 10 innings - with two centuries - in various domestic tournaments and then made 222 in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
R.K.V. Gopakumar, chairman of the selectors of Kerala's Ranji Trophy team, said they picked Sanju to play for Kerala when he was a few days short of 17 in 2011.
"He is such an unassuming person and appears quite mature for his age and, mind you, now he is awaiting his Class 12 results. Since making his debut in 2011, we have seen him returning from first class cricket matches to write his examinations. We are all happy that our state has produced another hugely talented cricketer and wish he goes the full distance," said Gopakumar.
"Even though he keeps wickets, to give him absolute freedom, we have selected another wicketkeeper in the state squad," added Gopakumar.
(With inputs from IANS)