|Full name||Sanju Viswanath Samson|
|Born||11 November 1994
Pulluvila, Vizhinjam, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India
|National side||India (2015–present)|
|Only ODI debut (Cap 241)||23 July 2021 v Sri Lanka|
|ODI shirt no.||9|
|T20I debut (Cap 55)||19 July 2015 v Zimbabwe|
|Last T20I||29 July 2021 v Sri Lanka|
|T20I shirt no.||9|
Sanju Viswanath Samson (born 11 November 1994) is an Indian international cricketer who captains Kerala in domestic cricket and Rajasthan Royals in Indian Premier League. He is a right-handed batter and a wicketkeeper. He was the vice-captain of the Indian U-19 team for the 2014 Under-19 Cricket World Cup and 2013 ACC Under-19 Asia Cup.
Sanju was included in the Indian squad for the limited-overs matches for the 2014 tour of England. He debuted in Twenty20 International (T20I) against Zimbabwe at Harare Sports Club Ground, on 19 July 2015. He scored an unbeaten 212 in 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy in the sixth instance an Indian scored a double-century in List A cricket, which is also the second-fastest double ton in List A cricket. He made his One Day International (ODI) debut on 23 July 2021 against Sri Lanka. He is the batter to score most runs against Indian Premier League team Sunrisers Hyderabad with 615 runs from 18 innings.
Early life and background
Sanju was born on 11 November 1994 into a Latin Catholic Malayali family in Pulluvila, a coastal village near Vizhinjam in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala. His father, Samson Viswanath, was formerly a police constable at Delhi Police and a retired football player and later coach who has represented Delhi in Santhosh Trophy and his mother, Ligy Viswanath is a housewife. His elder brother Saly Samson has represented Kerala in Junior cricket and currently works in the AG’s office.
Sanju spent his early childhood in the Police residential colony in North Delhi neighbourhood of GTB Nagar and studied at Rosary Senior Secondary School, Delhi. He trained under coach Yashpal at the academy in DL DAV Model School, Shalimar Bagh. When Sanju didn’t make it into the Delhi U-13 team for Dhruv Pandove Trophy, his father took voluntary retirement from the Delhi police force; a year after he retired from football and moved to Kerala, where Sanju and his brother continued their cricketing careers. In Kerala, he attended Masters Cricket Club in Thiruvananthapuram before changing academies to train under Biju George on Medical College Ground, Thiruvananthapuram.
Sanju graduated high school from St. Joseph’s Higher Secondary School, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. He pursued a B.A. degree in English literature from Mar Ivanios College, Thiruvananthapuram. Apart from cricket, his childhood aspiration was to become an IPS officer. He is working as the manager of Bharat Petroleum, Thiruvananthapuram.
Youth and domestic career
- 2007-13 : Youth and early domestic career
Sanju was a member of the U-13 cricket team of Kerala in 2007. In KSCA Inter-State under-13 tournament, he captained the side and bagged the player of the tournament award scoring 973 runs, including four centuries in five matches. He was also the captain of U-16 and U-19 Kerala State Cricket Team. As a member of Kerala U-15 team, he scored a double century off 138 balls in a Vijay Merchant Trophy South Zone match against Goa. He was the leading run-scorer of the season scoring 498 runs at an average of 62.25 including two centuries and two fifties.
His heroics in Vijay Hazare Trophy paved way to the Kerala squad for 2009-10 Ranji Trophy at the age of 14, becoming the youngest ever cricketer to be selected to play for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy. He was named in the Kerala squad for the inaugural season of Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy the same season. He made his first-class debut for the side in 2011-12 Ranji Trophy on 3 November 2011 against Vidarbha and Twenty20 debut for the side on 16 October 2011 against Hyderabad in the 2011-12 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He was named in the Kerala squad for 2011-12 Vijay Hazare Trophy and made his List-A debut on 23 February 2012 against Andhra Pradesh.
Sanju represented India in the 2012 ACC Under-19 Asia Cup held in Malaysia in June 2012. However, he disappointed with just 23 runs from five innings. He failed to get selected to the 2012 Under-19 Cricket World Cup squad of India. He scored two centuries and a fifty in five appearances in 2012-13 Ranji Trophy. He was the vice-captain of India under-19 team of 2013 Top End Under-19 Series in Australia. In the 2013 ACC Under 19 Asia cup in UAE, he scored a century in the final against Pakistan, helping India retain the cup. He was also the vice-captain of the team.
- 2013-14: Breakthrough in Ranji Trophy and early success
He was Kerala’s highest run-getter in 2013-14 Ranji Trophy season scoring 530 runs at an average of 58.88. In his first match of the season against Assam he scored a career-best 211 to bring up his first double century in Ranji Trophy. In the second match against Andhra Pradesh he scored 115 from 281 balls in the 1st innings followed by 51* in the second innings.On the Australia A Team Quadrangular Series in 2014 he finished as India A’s highest run-scorer with 244 runs from seven innings with two fifties with an average of 81.33. He was also applauded by Indian coach Abhay Sharma for his temperament and batting technique, calling him ‘The Future of India’. His maiden half-century in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy came against Rajasthan in the same year as he finished as the highest run-scorer for Kerala in the tournament. He finished as Kerala’s top-scorer in the 2014-15 season of Ranji Trophy scoring 475 runs including a highest score of 207.
In 2014, BCCI appointed Sanju as vice-captain of team India for the 2014 Under-19 Cricket World Cup. He was the top run-scorer for India in the tournament with a highest score of 85 runs from 45 balls against Papua New Guinea.
- 2015-16 : Captaincy and subsequent dip in form
Sanju was appointed as the captain of Kerala for the 2015–16 Ranji Trophy season. He began the season with a ton but failed to convert it into a successful season. His pathetic batting show continued in the Vijay Hazare Trophy that followed, where he scored just 95 runs from his seven appearances in the tournament.He started the next Ranji season scoring a 154 against Jammu and Kashmir but again failed to impress in the rest of the season. He was issued a show-cause notice by Kerala Cricket Association for alleged acts of indiscipline during a match in the tournament.
- 2017-2020 : Return to form and further success
He was the leading run-scorer for Kerala in the 2017–18 Ranji Trophy, with 627 runs from seven matches thus playing a key role in leading Kerala for the first time to the quarter-finals of the tournament. Following this he was appointed as the captain of the Board President’s XI side replacing injured Naman Ojha for the two-day tour match against Sri Lanka. He scored a century against the visiting team ending their two-day tour match in a draw.
In August 2018, he was one of eight players that were fined by the Kerala Cricket Association, after showing dissent against Kerala’s captain, Sachin Baby. In November 2018, he was named as one of eight players to watch ahead of the 2018–19 Ranji Trophy.
In the same month, he was named on the India A squad to play the Quadrangular series in which India A and India B will be joined by South Africa A and Australia A after being dropped from India A’s England tour because of a failed Yo-Yo test. He was the top-scorer of Kerala in the 2017-18 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
In September 2019, he scored 91 runs off 48 balls in the fifth unofficial One-day match between India A and South Africa A and was awarded the man-of-the-match award. In October 2019 during the 2019–20 Vijay Hazare Trophy match between Kerala and Goa, Sanju doubled his maiden List-A century which was the second-fastest double hundred and the fastest by an Indian in the format. It was the highest total made by a wicket-keeper in a One-day cricket match with an unbeaten 212 runs from 129 balls. His partnership of 338 runs with Kerala skipper Sachin Baby in the match is the highest partnership in List-A cricket for Indian cricket and third highest in the format.
- 2021-present : Return to captaincy
He captained Kerala in the 2020–21 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophybut failed to lead his team to the knockout stage of the tournament. He was the Kerala skipper in the 2021-22 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy and led the team to the quarterfinals of the tournament. He finished the tournament as Kerala’s leading run-scorer in the season scoring 227 runs from 7 innings. On 30 November 2021, he was named the captain of the Kerala squad to play the 2021-22 Vijay Hazare Trophy.
In August 2014, Sanju was selected to the 17-man squad to play against England in 5 ODIs and a Twenty20. However, he did not make it to the final eleven on any of the matches and remained a backup keeper to MS Dhoni. Sanju was called to the twenty-20 team for the solitary T-20 against West Indies, which got cancelled. In July 2015, he was drafted into the Indian squad against Zimbabwe for an ODI and two T20I matches as an injury replacement for Ambati Rayudu. He made his international debut against Zimbabwe at Harare on 19 July 2015.
In October 2019, he was recalled to the Indian side after four years as a part of India’s Twenty20 International (T20I) squad for their series against Bangladesh; but was benched in the whole series. In November 2019, he was added to the Indian team for T20I series against West Indies after an injury to Shikhar Dhawan. In December 2020, he was named in the Twenty 20 squad to play against Sri Lanka and featured in the third T20.
He was selected for the T20I series of the India tour of New Zealand and was part of the playing eleven as an opener. Though he couldn’t create the desired impact with the bat, his acrobatic catch in the deep made people take note of his fielding process.
In October 2020, he was named in India’s Twenty20 International (T20I) squad for their series against Australia. On 9 November 2020, he was added to India’s One Day International (ODI) squad, also for their series against Australia. He failed to break into the playing eleven of India in the one day series though he played all the three Twenty20 matches. He didn’t have a great series, scoring a total of 48 runs from 3 innings. His fielding efforts were once again appreciated by the critics. He was dropped from India’s Twenty20 International squad for their series against England.
In June 2021, he was named in India’s One Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 International (T20I) squads for their series against Sri Lanka. He made his ODI debut on 23 July 2021, for India against Sri Lanka and scored 46 runs off 46 balls. He played all twenty-20 matches against Sri Lanka scoring only 34 runs from three matches. He failed to be picked in the Indian squad for the 2021 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup and the twenty 20 series against New Zealand that followed.
Indian Premier League
Sanju was named by Kolkata Knight Riders in its player pool ahead of 2009 Indian Premier League. He was signed by Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of 2012 Indian Premier League but did not get to play and was released ahead of the 2013 season. He was signed to play for Rajasthan Royals in 2013. He made his IPL debut for Rajasthan against Kings XI Punjab on 14 April 2013 after the regular wicket-keeper Dishant Yagnik failed to recover from an injury.
In his second match, he scored 63 runs from 41 balls, becoming the youngest player in IPL to score a half-century. He won the Best Young Player award of 2013 season with 206 runs and six stumpings from 10 innings.
Sanju made his Champions League Twenty20 debut for Rajasthan Royals against the Mumbai Indians on 21 September 2013 and scored 54 off 47 balls, becoming the youngest player to score a half-century in the CLT20.
He was retained by Rajasthan ahead of the 2014 season. He finished the season as the joint top run-scorer for the side, scoring 339 runs in 13 matches.
In 2016, Delhi Daredevils signed Sanju after Rajasthan was banned from the competition for two years after being found guilty in illegal betting and match-fixing probe. He scored a total of 291 runs and scored his maiden T20 century during the season. In 2017 IPL, he finished as Delhi’s top run-scorer with 386 runs.
He returned to Rajasthan in the 2018 IPL auction and scored 441 runs in the season with the highest score of 91* against RCB. He scored his second IPL century in the next season, hitting an unbeaten 102*. He scored a total of 342 runs this season.
During the 2020 season, Sanju scored a 32-ball 74 against Chennai Super Kings. He led Rajasthan to the highest successful run chase in IPL history with 85 runs from 42 balls against Kings XI Punjab in the same season. Later in the season, he became the second-youngest cricketer to play 100 IPL matches and finished the tournament as Rajasthan’s top run-scorer.
On 20 January 2021, Sanju was named the captain of Rajasthan Royals ahead of the 2021 Indian Premier League. He scored a century in his first match as captain, becoming the first IPL captain to achieve the feat. He completed 3000 runs in IPL, scoring 82 runs off 57 balls against Sunrisers Hyderabad later in the season. He was the top run-scorer for Rajasthan Royals in the season scoring 484 runs from 14 matches and also the sixth-highest run-scorer of the tournament. On 30 November 2021, he was retained by Rajasthan Royals ahead of the 2022 Indian Premier League.
Sanju is a naturally aggressive and flamboyant batsman who is hailed as a natural talent with quality batting techniques and wicket-keeping skills. He is considered an excellent timer of the ball who mostly sticks to his range between cover and fine-leg. He has the ability to play straight and prefers to hit straight over the bowler’s head. Equipped with fast hands, powerful forearms and excellent hand-eye coordination he prefers to stay still at the crease and rarely moves down the track to play shots. He can play aerial shots without moving his head.
His power has been compared to powerful stroke-makers such as Rohit Sharma and AB de Villiers who can middle the ball to play shots with seemingly minimal effort. His batting style has been described as “fearless” in Twenty20 cricket. However, he has a weakness against short of a length deliveries.
He is also an athletic fielder who fields in the deeper areas in the field . He is also a quick runner and his throws from the deep can be very quick. He has been inconsistent over the years and has been dismissed in 20s and 30s quite oftenly in his career. He has also been noted to show lack of judiciousness in shot selection. He has been criticized for having the temperament of a rookie in spite of being experienced in the domestic circuit.
In 2018, Sanju started a sports academy, namely “Six Guns Sports Academy”, devoted to cricket and football training for young players in Thiruvananthapuram. He was appointed as the State election icon of Kerala, ahead of the 2021 Kerala Legislative Assembly election.
- Personal life
Sanju announced his marriage with his long-time girlfriend Charulatha Remesh, a native of Thiruvananthapuram, on 8 September 2018 through his social media platforms. The couple were college-mates from Mar Ivanios College. The marriage took place in a private ceremony at Kovalam on 22 December 2018. The wedding reception took place in Nalanchira on the same day with the only notable cricketer to attend being Sanju’s former coach and mentor, Rahul Dravid.
- Commercial endorsements
Samson has been sponsored by the brands like MRF (2014-2015), Kookaburra (2019-2020), SS (2016-2019; 2020–2021) and SG (2021-present). He has endorsed other brands – including Bharatpe, Puma, Myfab11, Baseline Ventures, Club Mahindra, Haeal and Gillette.