As someone beautifully described the maverick, “Sreesanth is the Malayali McEnroe!” You can love him, hate him but you cannot ignore him. Even the selectors could not © Getty Images
As someone beautifully described the maverick, “Sreesanth is the Malayali McEnroe!” You can love him, hate him but you cannot ignore him. Even the selectors could not © Getty Images


By Harsh Lapsia


Cricket and India have become virtually synonymous. To the average sports follower in the country, the cricket World Cup is the mother of all sports event. And to host this mega event in India! It cannot get bigger!


Winning the World Cup is what every player lives for. Ask Sachin Tendulkar! Kapil Dev’s team upset all odds to win the 1983 World Cup. The pressure of expectation has been there on subsequent Indian World Cup teams. All the teams had copious talent to emulate the 1983 team, but individual brilliance did not jell into a cohesive unit.


Hype always grip the Indian team selection. It seems bigger than the multitude of scams or the national elections. In a country as diverse and as parochial as India, the final selection generates much heat and angst. This time around it was the selection of Piyush Chawla. How on earth did he get in?! And, pray, no place for Shantakumran Sreesanth?!


Chawla isn’t going to get a game; an injured Harbhajan Singh will bowl better than him! Heck, Suresh Raina can do a better job. Besides, Chawla’s batting doesn’t inspire, neither does his fielding. Sreesanth would have understandably feel cheated after his fine performance in South Africa, just ahead of the World Cup.


And in tongue firmly-in-cheek, Sreesanth tweeted post his exclusion: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win! – Mahatma Gandhi…  Time will come my way.”


Call it premonition or whatever, Sreesanth is in the fray for the World Cup. An injury to Praveen Kumar got the Kerala seamer the much-deserved call.


The character is an endangered species in cricket – someone like a Derek Randall. Sreesanth is one of the rare characters in modern cricket. He brings so much more to the table than just his bowling. He wears his pride on his sleeve, his emotions are there for all to see – be it talking to himself while walk back to his mark or praying to the Almighty. Sreesanth is complex. He can easily lift the team or can irritate the hell out of the opposition – sometimes irritating his own captain in the bargain! He gets under the opposition’s skin… he gives it back to them and, despite his unassuming, height, is unafraid to take on hulks in the rival camp.  He can bowl 100 bad balls, but when it matters, come up with an unplayable gem of a delivery which Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Michael Holding or Malcolm Marshall, would be proud of. Remember his unforgettable ‘perfume ball’ to Jacques Kallis in the recent series? Whatever one can say about Sreesanth, one thing nobody can question is his commitment to the team. It’s 100% all the time.


Two months down the line when we well may be analyzing our World Cup victory, it could boil down to providential inclusion of Sreesanth in the Indian team.


Said Sreesanth, “Accept challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory; every exit is an entry somewhere else. Always keep at it. God is great!” He said on January 19, knowing fully well that wasn’t part of the World Cup team. But faith can move mountains and in Sreesanth’s case it did.


As the cliché goes, you can love him hate him but you cannot ignore the young man. And despite the heart break of not being in the original World Cup team, he wasn’t bitter – at least in public. As he said in reply to a fan cursing the Indian team: “No worries, I am sure we will still win. It is a great team. I love my team. Let’s all cheer for India. Cricket first, always!”


There is a thinking side to the Sreesanth personality – something that tugs your heart. Here is one such thought: “You can motivate by fear and you can motivate by reward. But both are temporary. The only lasting thing is self motivation.” And anybody who has seen him bowling would agree that he practices what he preaches.


And the philosopher in flannels reacts with dignified humility when he gets a belated call, “It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down. What matters is how many times you get up. Thanks for all your support and wishes. Great to be back!”


It’s been a pleasure following Sreesanth’s histrionics on the cricket field –  taking oppositions head on, launching into a jig after smashing a fast bowler for a six, gritting his teeth, thumping the ground… not Gandhian for sure, but certainly most modern.


As someone beautifully described the maverick, “Sreesanth is the Malayali McEnroe!” You can love him, hate him but you cannot ignore him. Even the selectors could not!


(Harsh Lapsia, an incorrigible optimist, lives life each day as it comes. He derives happiness from every moment and learns from every opportunity before him. He is a proud Indian, natural cricket lover & a football maniac – A Red Devil through & through. He loves expressing his views, be it sport or politics, local or global)