Manorama Sports Star 2022: The rise of a 'reliable' Sanju Samson

Sanju Samson
The year 2022 also witnessed Sanju brilliantly reinventing himself as a reliable middle-order batter in ODIs. File photo: AFP/Sajjad Hussain

Ever since he burst onto the cricketing scene, Sanju Samson has been a 'wonder kid' for Malayalees. He has always caught their imagination, right from the time he took baby steps into the sport by playing for the Kerala U-16 team at the age of 13. They watched him with pride and joy when he went on to captain the Kerala Ranji Trophy side when he was just 20 years, and led Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals at 26.

Creating an indelible impression with his eye-catching strokeplay, the 28-year-old wicket-keeper-batter has become a sporting icon and symbol of hope for Keralites. Recently, in a controversial sting operation, former chief selector Chetan Sharma revealed that he was aware of the criticism selectors face whenever Sanju fails to make it to the Indian team. It testified to Sanju's pan-India stardom.

One of the six shortlisted nominees for the Manorama Sports Star Award 2022, the year that went by was a golden one for Sanju, both as a player and a leader.

Junior superstar

Sanju has been a regular in Kerala teams across age-groups. While he could unsettle attacks with explosive hits and cheeky shots, he has also been precise behind the wickets. 

After proving his mettle in age-group tournaments, Sanju made his first-class debut at the age of 17 in 2011. The next year, he received maiden India call-up for the Asia Cup. Although he failed to make the cut for the U-19 World Cup, Sanju played his first List A match the same year. 

At 20, he was named the captain of the Kerala Ranji side in recognition of his consistent performances on the domestic circuit. Sanju's career received a much-required fillip after he started playing in the IPL in 2013.

Leading from the front

The year 2022 has been a memorable one for Sanju. In his second season as the captain of Rajasthan Royals, Sanju managed to guide his team to the final of the IPL. Although Royals lost to Gujarat Titans by seven wickets in the final, they had qualified for the playoffs after winning nine out of fourteen matches in the group stage while finishing second in the points table. 

Sanju featured in the top-10 batters' list too by amassing 458 runs from 17 matches.  The edition also saw Sanju crossing the 3,500-run mark in the IPL. In 2022, he also got the opportunity to captain the India 'A' team for the One-Day International (ODI) series against New Zealand 'A'. As India 'A' made a clean sweep in the three-match series, Sanju was the leading run-getter with 138 runs.  

He was also part of the Indian senior team for the T20 International series against Sri Lanka, Ireland, and England. The stylish right-hander also found a spot in the Indian team for the ODI series against the West Indies, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. 

In his first 10 ODI matches, Sanju has scored 296 runs at an average of 73.50. The year 2022 also witnessed Sanju brilliantly reinventing himself as a reliable middle-order batter in ODIs. 

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