By Devarchit Varma
Kerala is not known for cricket. A newcomer coming from this region into the national side can easily get intimidated by heavyweights from cricketing powerhouses like Mumbai, Delhi and Karnataka. But Shantakumaran Sreesanth is one of a kind - brash, irreverent and maverick to the core.
It was almost as if the seniors had to get used to him rather than the other way round! He not only got under the skin of his opponents with his histrionics but also his own mates as well! In many ways he is the Rakhi Sawant of the Indian cricket team! Attention seeker in the extreme – even if it’s obnoxious to the rest of the world. Like Rakhi, Sreesanth cares two hoots for what the world thinks.
When he is not flying around like loose cannon, Sreesanth is a quality fast-medium bowler. If there is one freeze frame that will make every Indian eternally proud it’s the snorter he produced last year at Durban to dismiss Jacques Kallis. That picture of Kallis avoiding getting hit rekindle memories of the 80s when the West Indies pace quartet at its pomp made batsmen look like cat on a hot tin roof.
That pix showed that India’s fast bowling had come a long way from the time when two overs from Abid Ali and one from Eknath Solkar were treated as mandatory pain before the Bishan Bedi, EAS Prassana and BS Chandrasekhar took centrestage. In fact, the Indians used to relay the new ball by rolling it on the ground!
Kevin Pietersen said after the conclusion of the Lord’s Test that the English side does not harbour “genuine hatred” like they do for the Australians. With Sreesanth likely to come in for the injured Zaheer Khan, things could change! Sreesanth’s verbal duels with opponents are legendary and the second Test at Trent Bridge could just add another chapter to the Sreesanth saga.
All said and done, Sreesanth gets shock value – in a positive sense – on the field as well. Let’s zoom in on a few that could be to India’s advantage:
Sledging has to be done with caution and care. It can boomerang big time, with the opponent getting fired-up or because the tactics went overboard to invite censure from the match referee.
If there is one notorious sledger in the Indian side, it’s Sreesanth. His methodologies have invited not just censure from the match referee but also his own captain as well. By needling opponents with personal barbs – as he did to Graeme Smith at Kingsmead – Sreesanth invites trouble. But his Aussie-like attitude also gets the desired result. We could well see the man getting after someone like Kevin Pietersen.
Unlike Lord’s where Praveen Kumar’s lack of pace came as a relief for England at one end, while Ishant Sharma was going ballistic at the other, Trent Bridge could be different with both Ishant and Sreesanth having the ability to work up a good pace. Unlike Praveen, Sreesanth has the extra pace and bounce combined with some swing.
The fact that both Ishant Sharma and Praveen Kumar played their first Test in England, largely went unnoticed. Zaheer’s rich experience will be missed, but Sreesanth, part of the victorious Indian team in the 2007 series, has been around the international circuit for a while to be the senior pro among the three Indian new ball bowlers. Sreesanth’s tally of nine wickets in three Tests doesn’t match up with Zaheer’s 18 wickets from three Tests on that tour, but Sreesanth can still be an unpredictable match-winner.
Praveen was ruled out just before the 2011 World Cup began and Ishant was not in the squad. In place of Praveen, Sreesanth was drafted. Sadly, he had a poor tournament. The Bangladesh batsmen plundered him for runs in the opening match and so did the Sri Lankans in the final. Everyone was of the view that if there was only failure in India’s successful campaign, it was Sreesanth. This very fact can work as a catalyst for the temperamental bowler. Sreesanth could get derailed easily, but he can also derail the opposition.
(Devarchit Varma is a cricket fanatic who finds nothing more exciting to do than to write, watch or play cricket. An ardent Test cricket fan, he often goes alone to see his favourite players in action.)