Time for Sanju Samson to stake India claim as Kerala begin Vijay Hazare campaign
KOCHI: Kerala begin the domestic season with their Vijay Hazare Trophy opener against Chhattisgarh at Alur in Bengaluru on Wednesday. Under new captain Robin Uthappa, the team will be looking to get off the blocks against the Harpreet Singh-led side but inclement weather may well have the final say as all Group A matches in Bengaluru were washed out on Tuesday, the opening day of the senior domestic 50-over tournament.
A major subtext of Kerala's campaign will be the performance of star wicketkeeper-batsman Sanju Samson who has once again been talked about in the high echelons of Indian cricket, partly due to his good form and mainly due to the scrutiny Rishabh Pant has been under as the national team's gloveman.
Former players like Gautam Gambhir, Harbhajan Singh have been vociferous in their praise of Sanju, who hit a stoke-filled 91 for India 'A' against South Africa 'A' in his hometown Thiruvananthapuram three weeks ago. A good show in the Vijay Hazare one-dayers will make Sanju, now the vice-captain of the Kerala one-day side, a prime contender for the senior team's wicketkeeper slot along with Ishan Kishan when the selectors meet to pick the squad for the T20 series against touring Bangladesh in November.
Qualifying from the league stage will be tough for Kerala as they have to finish in the top-five of the combined Group A-B comprising 18 teams. Kerala will be without Jalaj Saxena for the first two games at least as he has been included in the Board President's XI set to play against South Africa ahead of the Test series.
Kerala's fixtures: vs Chattisgarh at Alur (Sep 25), vs Saurashtra at Chinnaswamy (Sep 26), vs Andhra at Alur (Sep 29), vs Mumbai at Alur (Oct 1), vs Jharkhand at Bengaluru (Oct 5), vs Goa at Alur (Oct 9), vs Hyderabad at Alur (Oct 11), vs Karnataka at Alur (Oct 13).
Robin Uthappa (captain), Sanju Samson (vice-captain), Sachin Baby, Rahul P, Mohammed Azharuddeen (WK), Vishnu Vinod, Asif KM, Basil Thampi, Sandeep Warrier, Nidheesh MD, MIdhun S, Akshay Chandran, Salman Nizar, Sijomon Joseph, Vinoop Manoharan.