Current batting sensation Virat Kohli owes the foundation of his current iconic status to the U-19 World Cup, and young batting star from Kerala - Sanju Viswanath Samson - hope to follow in his footsteps at the 2014 edition beginning in the UAE from February 14.
Samson made headlines after he guided Rahul Dravid-led Rajasthan Royals to a convincing victory against a formidable Royal Challengers Bangalore with a superb half-century in the Indian Premier League last year. Though it was his first fifty in 11 IPL innings, but one that gave enough indications of a special talent.
The wicketkeeper batsman, who has scored 911 runs in 13 first-class matches at a solid average of 43.38, showed ealier this year that he can handle pressure as well on the international stage, when he hit a match-winning century against archrivals Pakistan to help India win the Under-19 Asia Cup.
The son of a former police constable, Samson has scripted a remarkable journey that is almost at the doorstep of the senior India team. Elated at his selection in the Under-19 World Cup after a superb show in the Asia Cup, Samson, in an exclusive interview to Cricketnext shared his experiences in UAE and plans for the World Cup.
Did you expect the call up?
Honestly, yes. I was expecting the call from the selectors. I knew that after a good performance in the Asia Cup, which was a big platform for me, I would make it to the Under-19 World Cup.
How was your experience in the Asia Cup?
I just stuck to my basics and wanted to bat for long for my team. There were many occasions when I slipped but I learnt from my mistakes. My seniors, coaches, captain were there to guide me. Everyday is a learning period for me and I am always open to it. The final against Pakistan was a big task for me and for my team as well. Pakistan, who played exceptionally well throughout the tournament, did stage a good fightback in the final. All the teams were excellent and played good cricket. I didn't score much in rest of the games but I am happy that I came up with a good score for my team when it was needed the most. I learnt a lot from the tour and will apply the same in the World Cup.
What are your plans for the U-19 World Cup now?
I don't experiment with my batting. I will play my normal cricket and will stick to my basics. I have started spending a lot of time at the nets. I went to NCA, Bangalore, where the seniors, physios and the coaches gave a lot of tips. I have spent a lot of time with them.
You will be playing the U-19 World Cup at the same venue as Asia Cup. Do you think it will help?
Of course, it will help me to a great extent. I have played five matches in the UAE and I'm aware about the conditions, so it will surely help me. I enjoyed batting there and hope to carry the momentum.
Which team do you think can be a dangerous side?
Every team plays to win. And in cricket, anyone can make a comeback at any point of time. In the Asia Cup, only eight played from the Asian continent but we will see 15 teams in the fray at the World Cup. Pakistan have been playing exceptionally well. They made it to the finals last time and made it the to the final in the Asia Cup final as well. So, in my opinion Pakistan will be the team to beat in the tournament.