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Talent and temperament aplenty in Teenaged Samson

Sanju Samson recollects what happened one January afternoon last year precisely. He was in Jaipur, attending the selection trials being conducted by Rajasthan Royals. Sreesanth, the former India and Rajasthan Royals fast bowler, banned for life by the BCCI for spot-fixing in the IPL, had taken Samson to the trials.

After IPL 2012, Kolkata Knight Riders, the first franchise to scout and pick Samson, had severed ties with him. Samson returned to Kerala, the state he plays cricket from, anxious.

"I can never forget the day when I attended the Rajasthan Royals selection trials. Sreesanth bhai took me there last January. After the IPL and Champions League in 2012, Knight Riders told me that the BCCI had asked the teams to trim the squads and they had decided to drop me and they were sorry about that. So I never expected another IPL team soon," Samson told ESPNcricinfo last month, during the Ranji Trophy match between Kerala and Himachal Pradesh in Telicherry.

However, Sreesanth had been impressed by Samson's attitude and batting and wanted the 18-year-old to play for Royals. "One day I was batting in front of Rahul Dravid and Paddy Upton. I started playing strokes," Samson said. "It was my day and I just expressed myself in front of a legend like Rahul Dravid."

Samson will always cherish what happened next. "He [Dravid] came and directly told me, 'Sanju, you have a very special talent and I would really love to make you play in my Rajasthan Royals team. Would you play for us?' He asked me like this. That question really shocked me. I was really surprised and excited, and wanted to record that moment in my memory. He had seen me for barely two days. So what he said to me, I never expected that," Samson said, a big smile lighting up his face.

Samson still cannot believe. But on Friday, he became one of the five players retained by Royals ahead of the 2014 season. Along with Stuart Binny (Royals) and Manan Vohara (Kings XI Punjab), Samson is one of only three uncapped India players to be retained among the 24 cricketers held back by the franchises. Samson is the youngest of them all.

Before today, Samson hit the national headlines when he hit a fearless half-century, in only his second match for Royals, in an exciting chase against Royals Challengers Bangalore. Although that was the only fifty he could register in the 11 IPL matches, Samson raised his bat to three half-centuries during the Champions League T20 in September-October, where Royals finished runners-up. One of those half-centuries came in the final, which was against Mumbai Indians.

Chasing a tall target of 202, Royals lost Kusal Perera quickly. It did not matter to Samson, who displayed temperament and an alert eye to pick gaps. He blazed eight boundaries in his 50. When Samson departed in the 12th over Rajasthan were 117, but they faltered. It was an evening when Samson turned franchises' heads.

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