Sanju Samson hits record double ton to stake a claim for India call-up

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KOCHI: Kerala wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson registered the highest List-A (ODIs and domestic one-day cricket) score in Indian domestic cricket, smashing 212 not out off 129 balls (21×4, 10×6) against Goa in a Vijay Hazare Trophy Group A game at Alur in the outskirts of Bengaluru on Saturday. Sanju, batting at No. 3, converted his first List-A century into a double ton and, in the process, overhauled the record of Karn Kaushal of Uttarakhand, who had hit 202 against Sikkim last season.

Sanju became the sixth Indian batsman to hit a List-A double century, after Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma (all in ODIs), Shikhar Dhawan and Kaushal. He reached 200 in 125 balls, the fastest among all Indian double tons and the second-fastest overall behind Travis Head who reached the mark in 120 balls for South Australia against Western Australia in 2015.

Sanju and former Kerala skipper Sachin Baby (127 off 135 balls; 7×4, 4×6) put on a record 338 runs for the third wicket as Kerala finished at 377 for three and restricted Goa to 273 for eight to record a 104-run win, their third in six matches.

The 338-run stand between Sanju and Sachin is the highest for the third wicket in List-A cricket overall. It is also the highest for any wicket in Indian cricket as they surpassed the 331-run stand between Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid in an ODI for India against New Zealand Hyderabad in 1999.

Sanju’s 212 is also the highest List-A score by a wicketkeeper in the world. He pushed Pakistan’s Abid Ali to the second spot. Ali had scored 209 for Islamabad against Peshawar in Pakistan’s domestic one-day tournament in 2018.

The whirlwind knock has put Sanju back again in the spotlight with regards to an India call-up. The 24-year-old has not been able to add to his sole India cap, a T20I against Zimbabwe in 2015. The patchy form of Rishabh Pant, coupled with his own exploits of late, Sanju has put forward a strong case for himself as a wicketkeeper-batsman when the selectors meet to pick the T20I squad for the series against Bangladesh next month.

Sanju has been in good touch of late. He came into the Vijay Hazare Trophy on the back of a 48-ball 91 for India ‘A’ against South Africa ‘A’. His scores in the Vijay Hazare Trophy before this game were 16, 67, 36, 48, and 16 and he finally cashed in big and the Goa bowlers were at the receiving end.

“We are all very privileged to have witnessed incredible innings. Everyone was expecting something like this him because he has been in total control every time he had batted previously in this tournament. I’m pretty sure some bigger things are awaiting him in the near future,” Kerala coach Dav Whatmore told STOI.

“It was long due, I would say. He has been hitting the ball very well, whether it’s in the nets or the matches. In the last two games, he got out to left-arm spinners. Today also when Sanju came into bat, there was a left-arm spinner operating but he backed his game. He stepped out to hit a six and set the tempo for the innings,” said Kerala’s assistant coach and former skipper Sony Cheruvathur.
“There has been a lot of talk about India selection. But Sanju has not been focussing on that. He believes in preparing well and playing to the best of his ability. He seemed to be in that zone right from the start. There was a match against an Australian reserve team at SRMC in Chennai as part of our pre-season and in one match, Sanju hit a 70-odd in a tough chase. From that moment, we knew he would do special things this season,” added Sony.
One man who has been with Sanju through thick and thin is his childhood mentor Biju George, the outgoing fielding coach of the Indian women’s team. “Sanju used to bat for more than four hours every day at the SAI ground at Medical College in Thiruvananthapuram before the season. And he worked on his fitness tremendously in the gym. I told him if you keep performing well, you will get your due. The only change in his batting now is not technical but mental. He has gone back to being the Sanju of the old and decided to stick to attacking cricket. We knew a big score was around the corner. I’m so glad that it has come in the form of a record. I’m so happy for Sachin too. He has worked so hard to constantly improve his game,” said Biju.
Brief scores: Kerala 377/3 in 50 overs (Sanju Samson 212 n.o, Sachin Baby 127) bt Goa 273/8 in 50 overs (Aditya Kaushik 58, Tunish Sawkar 56, Snehal Kauthankar 31; Sandeep Warrier 2/44, Akshay Chandran 2/54, Nidheesh MD 2/57) by 104 runs.

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