Sanju says he keeps forgetting negative things for a positive mindset
Sanju Viswanath Samson, the extremely gifted player from Thiruvananthapuram, had slowly graduated over the years into becoming a fine wicket-keeper batsman, who is sound in technique, both with the bat and behind the stumps. Fondly called Sanju by all his fans, the slightly reserved personality needs no introduction in the field of sports. Kerala’s own beloved cricketer, who has undoubtedly made his way to the national team with sheer talent and hard work, also represents Rajasthan Royals in IPL. He shares a different side of his personality with us other than that on field here, in an exclusive chat during the lockdown days.
My first question was about the moment he realised that he wanted to be a cricketer. Without thinking a moment, he responded, “I had spent my first 10-11 years of my childhood in Delhi as my father was in Delhi Police. Then we shifted to Kerala. I began playing cricket with my friends on the streets as anyone does, initially with tennis balls and slowly with cricket balls. Then my father took me to an Academy for coaching and lots of school cricket followed in Delhi. Thus, cricket happened automatically to me rather than anyone telling me that I have to play cricket. I feel lucky about it.”
He was on the defensive when I wanted to know how Sanju would describe himself in one word. “Describing Sanju in one word is basically impossible. It’s a much deeper thing, I guess. I am still trying to find out who I am,” he seemed amused.
On seeing my curiosity about his views on the pandemic situation, he became quite serious. “Covid has really affected the whole world and it’s truly unbelievable that a virus can really change the lives of people like this. Everyone is waiting for a solution or a vaccine and it's pretty devastating looking at the condition of the world right now.”
Pausing for a moment, he voluntarily continued, “If we look at it in a positive way, there are a lot of good things you can reflect upon your life. It is said that life is too short, but it has to go on. We have all been stuck for almost 4-5 months now and maybe many more to come. It’s a great moment to reflect back on your life and understand the path you have chosen, the things you have wanted in life, what is your right perspective and what is the purpose of life - looking at the negative to positive situation, you can make use of all these things. So I am also trying to do something like this.”
About utilizing his leisure time, he shared, “I do read a bit of fiction and also watch a lot of movies, especially Malayalam and English ones.”
His fans would be keen to know about his role models, I said. “There are lots of wonderful people who I look up to. My first hero is my father, I learned everything from him. Then I started watching Sachin Sir, Rahul Sir and Saurav Sir in the television. Then it was Mahi bhai, now it has changed to Virat bhai and Rohit Sharma. I actually like to learn a lot of different things from different people. I really love watching AB de Villiers, Mike Hussey and Brian Lara. I love learning from all the great cricketers who have played this game.”
“Yes, I do go to theatres with my wife and friends. I do not try to restrict myself too much from going out,” he commented when asked about his social life. Does he miss privacy in his life, I interrupted. “Of course, the crowd recognises me, but I take selfies with them and try to give them a happy time. I think I am lucky to be able to bring smiles on other people’s faces and I am happy about it.”
Speaking about his closest friends in cricket, his face lit up, “My best friends are from my own Kerala team, we started playing together from Under-13 Kerala side, being genuinely good friends who have stuck together till now. My besties - Iqlas Naha, Rahul Raghavan and Fabid Farooq - are the guys whom I played with at Under-13 level for state team, so they are the best guys who have always supported me.
“When I went up to the Indian team” he said, “I think I tried to be friendly with everyone. I was a newcomer in the Indian team, but I knew most of them. I like to be friendly with each and everyone. That led to me and everyone being really good friends.”
Hear Sanju talk about the most positive quality
Enquiring about something that he is crazy about, he reiterated about retaining cricket as his primary passion. “I think I used to have a bit of interest in wearing different types of caps, so I had a lot of caps. Like at one time when I was playing in the Under-19 team, I used to carry three caps in my bag whenever I went out. But now, to be very honest, I don't find myself attracted to many things. I have a very small liking towards superbikes, but I said no to myself until I stop playing cricket. I feel bikes are a bit dangerous and cricket is more important, so I have kept that away for now.”
He willingly gave his input about his definition of success, “In this short period of life, after talking to different people, observing and learning things, I have understood that if your mind and body is in your control or you can take control of these at any point of time, then you are having a successful life. Success does not mean you have to be famous, have a huge bank balance, a big house or vehicles, but you have to be happy. Even the people who have all the material possessions don’t have peace or happiness in life. We all strive for different things, but ultimately we should be happy and peaceful; that is what success is for me. I may be right or wrong, but if you can sit down happily with yourself for some time, have great relationships with your family, friends and loved ones, that is when people are successful, according to me.”
Sounding pensive when he reminisced about the changes in his life, “As in everyone’s life, there have been several changes in my life too from childhood and I have accepted it happily. Change does happen, but how we accept it and move on is what matters.”
I thought it was tricky while asking if he wished for a change in his traits. “No, most of the time I am happy with my character. Yeah, there may be a couple of things, but as a human being, there are positive and negative things in me and I do not want to change anything.”
Is there a relation between his fitness and diet? “Diet restrictions are definitely there, but I think I look at my diet as a fuel to perform on the ground. I definitely take care of my diet like eating the best quality foods. They really play a big role in fitness which is vital to play a lot of continuous high-intensity games. So it's important to take care of yourself and fitness starts from diet.
I do follow a diet plan because diet plays a very big role in training, about 70% of your outcome comes from the diet you're having. I'm very lucky to have Arun from Zam Zam restaurant, Thiruvananthapuram as a chef at my own place. He really takes care of my diet as he is well aware of what a sportsman needs. He does a lot of research and knows how to make a healthy as well as tasty diet. So I always enjoy eating whatever Arun cooks. I have been following this for the past 7 months.” He does not forget to point out, “Eating a lot of fruits and veggies is important. Proteins from quality fruits and vegetables can be pretty crucial. So that is what I'm taking care of.”
He suddenly turned a doting son while explaining, “I think I love whatever my mom cooks in her kitchen, but nowadays I try to stay away from it because my body tends to get heavier as soon as I eat beef or chicken because maybe the Kerala-style cooking is a bit spicy with a lot of carbs, so I think I like to stay away from it. But I find it very hard to resist chicken, so I try to go to my home once or twice every month to have whatever my mom cooks. I think whatever she makes is very delicious and I love eating all of them.”
“As for my practice regime, I like to really hit the ball almost every day of the week. I like to train for 2 hours a day and then practice for 3 hours. On a normal day, I think I give around 5-6 hours for cricket. My days are mostly spent to prepare for my practice sessions and after preparing, I spend time repairing from it,” he patiently made me note the point.
Confident of his positive quality that has helped him move forward, he related “The most positive part luckily in me is that I keep forgetting things. There are a lot of positive and negative things, but I find that I keep forgetting a lot of negative things that have happened to me in the past. I luckily have an ability to keep forgetting the negative incidents and negative people that I have come across. So that helps me to keep on having a positive mindset as well as positive thoughts about myself and others.”
How much of his success would he attribute to luck? “I am a very big God fearing person. I think whatever has happened in my life is definitely a great blessing. I have seen a lot of people work hard, I also work hard but I have always felt that the luck I have got in my life or the blessings I have got in my life is through God.”
He turned philosophical while discussing the sacrifices to become a player. “My father has always taught me that if you want to be a sportsman, you need to be like a 'yogi'. Almost every second or every minute of your day is spent to understand what you need to do. After I wake up, I need to be fully fit and ready for the day. I have to have a really good sleep and then I have to do my meditation to keep my mind and body free and relaxed, after which I need to have a good breakfast to stay energized. Almost every minute of your day has to be monitored by yourself, you can't really be free and just hang out with people whenever you feel like it. You can't just go anywhere you like and if someone has called you to be somewhere, you may not be able to be there because your whole day is very well-planned. I've spent almost every day of my life like that, so it has become a habit for me to wake up and do all those things. It has become a really good habit in my life, so it doesn't feel like it's a sacrifice or something. If I don't do it, I feel bad about it, so I have to keep on putting myself into the zone of working hard and doing all these things, then only I believe there is a purpose in my life. Some days if I don't do all these things, then I feel very blank and cold. I always like to keep myself busy as a sportsman and I love doing it.”
The mood suddenly turned light as I asked about Charu's support, “Haha, she never complains but understands the importance of cricket in our lives, so she really respects whatever I do, on and off the field for cricket. I'm really happy that I have a partner who understands the importance of cricket in my life and she's the one who is really taking care of my things so nicely after coming into my life. I think I have been able to give more time to cricket after our marriage than before, so I feel very lucky for having her.” He also added, "It is just me and Charu in an apartment, so it becomes a small world of ours."
His fashion statement was quite interesting too, “I do have my own style which I have created on my own. I do like wearing a lot of plain clothes like plain loose T-shirts and I like to be very comfortable than stylish. So I try to be comfortable first, I think that's what my style is all about.”
I keenly queried him about feeling hurt due to favouritism at some point. “Yeah, I think everyone faces that in their lives. No one is always at the top of his life. I've faced a lot of different situations in my life which were important for me to give me motivation and to overcome bad times. So I think I have definitely come through a lot of different situations, and I'm proud that I have been able to come back strongly from those,” he replied.
The optimism reflected in his eyes when the topic about the future of cricket, given the situation of the pandemic came up. “It is definitely going to affect our normal way of playing, so I think we need to accept the change and we need to toughen the game I think. A lot of people are talking about playing on free grounds or without crowd. I definitely agree that once the safety of the players and management has been taken care of, we can certainly play cricket again. In time, we can also take care of the security and health issues of the people, so I think it will be a little different, but we can slowly and slightly come back to normal ways.”
(The writer is Chairperson CSA, Dir TGL, Editor The Intl Journal, Sr Dir FWO)