Indian Premier League has been the birthplace of many a teen cricket celebrities. The latest young Indian cricketer to use the platform provided by the cash-rich league to grab attention is Sanju Samson.
Sanju Viswanath Samson is Kerala's teenage sensation and is already being touted as the next big thing.
While he's done well in the limited opportunities provided to him, it still reamins to be seen if he can sustain the fire and control the ego to make it big.
There have been many others like him who blazed to glory on the IPL stage, only to later burn out without a whimper. Some of the young stars who shone brightly during IPL, but sizzled out later are Manish Pandey, Kamran Khan, Shreevats Goswami and Pradeep Sangwan.
It's too early to pass judgement on the 18-year-old Sanju, for he has played just two games so far in IPL.
He made a dream debut for Rajasthan Royals against Kings XI Punjab on April 14th with three catches and a valuable 27 including the winning hit.
But that didn't stop the franchise from dropping him for the next game. Picked for Monday match against Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sanju grabbed the opportunity by both hands to score a 41-ball 63. He was named Man of the Match for his effort as he provided the platform that allowed Rajasthan Royals to defeat RCB by four wickets in Jaipur.
At 18 years, 169 days, Samson has become the youngest to score an IPL fifty surpassing Shreevats Goswami (19 years and 1 day) for Bangalore against Delhi at Bangalore on May 19, 2008. He's also the first Keralite to score a half-century in IPL.
The youngster from Kerala, who is a A B de Villiers fan, has changed his name to Sanju Viswanath (from Samson), but insists there's no superstition behind it.
Viswanath is his middle name and tends to make one compare the teen wonder to the great G.R. Viswanath.
"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 told a news agency, that even though he played for Delhi in the 1994 national football championship (Santosh Trophy), cricket was the first love for both his son.
"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 here.
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.
Now, whether the likes of 19-year-olds Jasprit Bumrah of Mumbai Indians and Hanuma Vihari of Sunrisers Hyderabad, and Sanju leave an indelible mark on Indian cricket reminas to be seen.
(With inputs from IANS)
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