A file photo of Sanju Samson. (BCCI Images)
Sanju Viswanath Samson is not like another teenager. At 19, he has emerged as one of the most sought-after young talents in India's cricket circles, and during his stint with the Rajasthan Royals, Samson has looked ever so ready to don the India jersey.
The gutsy right-hander earned laurels from the likes of Rahul Dravid and Shane Watson following his impressive show in last year's Indian Premier League (IPL), where the lad from Thiruvananthapuram became the youngest player to score a half-century in the IPL at the age of 18.
Sanju hogged the limelight after a couple of starry knocks against the Royals Challengers Bangalore and the Kolkata Knight Riders in Rajasthan's road to the semis. His performance earned him the distinction of one of the five players retained by RR ahead of the 2014 players' auction.
Talking to Cricketnext before flying to the UAE for the first leg of IPL 7, the right-hander opened up on various issues, including having his idol Dravid as a mentor and not player for the RR franchise.
It was a prolific outing for you in IPL 6. Surely you would have prepared yourself for this season. How do you see it panning out for you?
I will stick to the basics. Just like last season, I will try to score more and more runs for my team. Last season was really good me. I was happy to score runs for the Royals. I have played a lot of cricket recently that will surely help me in the tournament. My focus was on the junior Asia Cup and the U-19 World [but] that job is done now and I am shifting to the shortest format of cricket.
Rahul Dravid will not be there on the field this time. Will you miss him?
No, Rahul sir will not be missed. I know he will not be there as a captain, but we will have him around as a mentor. He is my idol. I have learnt a lot from him. He will be in a different role altogether but I will try to continue to learn as much as I can [from Dravid].
How was your experience with Dravid and Rajasthan Royals in your first season with the franchise?
It was a dream come true to play under Rahul Dravid. I never thought I will be playing with him someday, but I did. I had got a lot of support from Rahul sir. I didn't play the first four matches, but later on tried to score good runs for the team after my inclusion. The atmosphere in the Rajasthan camp was amazing. Not just I, every player gets the push from the seniors to perform. The seniors and the coaches are so encouraging. I still remember Rahul sir used to come to me and give me a lot of tips to boost my confidence. He constantly insisted that I play my natural game and not lose my cool under pressure. His tips will always be there in my mind and I'll try to apply them in every game that I play in the future.
How do you see Shane Watson as captain?
Shane is a great allrounder. He is an asset for our team. I will be playing under him this time as Rahul sir has retired. It will be a different experience altogether playing under Shane.
What memory from IPL 6 will always remain with you?
I scored 63 off 41 balls against Royal Challengers Bangalore in helping the team win the match by four wickets. I was declared the Man of the Match. After the award ceremony, I went to the dressing room. All of a sudden Rahul sir came to me and gifted me a cricket bat. It was the most memorable day of my life to accept such a gift from my idol. I still remember his words. He said: "Sanju, you have a fearless batting style. You play really well. Just be focused and play your natural game. All the best."