When Sanju Samson touches down in England later this month for the limited-overs series, the uncapped player could well be welcomed into the India fold by team manager Sunil Dev, who will be getting ready to return at the end of the Test series.
Life would have come a full circle. The Delhi cricket administrator was the selectors’ convenor when a 12-year-old Samson was not shortlisted from the initial probables for the state under-13 squad for the Dhruv Pandove Trophy, triggering the youngster’s departure from the capital to chase his cricketing dream.
Coach Yashpal, who trained Samson at his DAV School academy in West Delhi’s Shalimar Bagh, recalls the day in November, 2006 when he accompanied him and two other wards, Siddharth Sehwag and Ankush Bains, to the Jesus and Mary College for trials.
“He was one of my best trainees. Unfortunately, he couldn’t even make it to the final 200 or so,” he says. “He would keep wicket for 2-3 hours and bat for a long time. He was very fit as his father Vishwanathan, who was a police constable, was very demanding on that.”
Upset by the unfair treatment, it was Yashpal who asked Samson’s father, who was also a football coach in the Police Lines, to relocate to his home state Kerala if he wanted a cricketing future for his younger son. “We looked for a coach and found one in Thiruvananthapuram. Luckily, he was a good one,” he recalls.
Vishwanathan took voluntary retirement from Delhi Police and left, and his sons have repaid his faith. Sanju made it to the state U-14 side, scored over 1,000 runs, then making a mark in Rajasthan Royals, India U-19 and India A sides.
Ankush Bains, a wicketkeeper-batsman like Samson, too didn’t make it in that trials and shifted to Himachal Pradesh. They played together in the U-19 World Cup this year.
Siddharth, who was selected as a leg-spinner, played in the higher age-group Delhi teams as well. His father Ved Prakash Sehwag, a distant relative of Virender Sehwag, recalls driving the boys to matches as only he had a car. “Sanju was extremely talented, and moving out of Delhi paid dividends,” he says.
Samson is still in touch with Yashpal. Early this year, before leaving for the UAE to play in the U-19 World Cup, he invited Yashpal to spend a few days in Kerala with his family.