Shantakumaran Sreesanth did not evoke the same amount of awe as Zaheer Khan did when he held the ball for the first time in his international career. However, there was something promising in him – he had that extra yard of pace and a seam position that was as good as that of Zaheer, the premier fast bowler for India at that time. As the years went by, his pace dropped as is the wont and birthright of every Indian quick bowler but his seam movement was always there and he played a decisive role in some of India’s most memorable wins in his time. The brute of a delivery that got rid of a certain Jacques Kallis in the second test at Durban in 2006-07 was perhaps the best ball he has ever bowled. His role in the Jamaica test against the West Indies was also commendable as he bowled with heart in trying conditions and helped India win its first series in the Caribbean after 1971. He was also a useful contributor to India’s win in the first ever T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007.
Something seemed to go amiss after the first edition of the Indian Premier League where he was seen crying on national television and claimed he had been slapped by Harbhajan Singh after a match with Mumbai Indians. Even though Bhajji was suspended from the tournament the event left its indelible mark on him as well as that event became a highlight of his career. After that, he went to play county cricket for Warwickshire and earned the praise of Allan Donald. For various reasons like injury and loss of form he was never really the same bowler. He kept getting in and out of the team, never really holding a place in spite of being one of the better bowlers going around. However, he still was a member of India’s World Cup winning team of 2011. From then onwards, he lost form and was afflicted by a toe injury that kept him out of the national and Kerala team for 18 odd months.
Sreesanth, however, made a decent comeback to domestic cricket and was even chosen to represent India A against the Aussies in the recently concluded series. He was also able to play for Rajasthan Royals in this year’s IPL and it all seemed to be going on the right track for the temperamental seamer until he became the latest name added to the spot-fixing hall of shame. Now that he has been arrested and calls for his head have started to go up, it seems we might have seen the last of this capable-but-flawed cricketer.
Discipline was never really the forté of Sreesanth who has managed to rile off team mates and opposition alike. He has had run-ins with none other than Sachin Tendulkar. MS Dhoni, the one with a cucumber cool temperament, has often expressed disgust and dismay at his antics. At the international level, his showdowns with Andre Nel, Andrew Symmonds and Matthew Hayden are well documented. The BCCI, for its own part, has threatened him with suspension several times on account of bad behavior. A few days ago, he cooked up quite a storm by tweeting against Harbhajan Singh and calling him a backstabber.
Even after keeping these in mind what happened with the spot-fixing thing was absolutely unprecedented. What is even more staggering is that he played the role of coordinator in this whole episode cajoling Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan, promising cricketers both, to earn money the wrong way.
As is usual, Sreesanth has been backed by his lawyer and his parents. Newspaper reports suggest that his mother believes in his innocence and is hopeful that he will be acquitted with his dignity intact. His father, as is evident from the same sources, has gone ahead and said this is the conspiracy of Dhoni and Harbhajan to end his career. Certain reports in the media have also suggested that Dhoni had penciled him in to be taken to the South Africa series later this year. All in all, it looks like a strange situation and only time will tell what the truth is: as they say, you are innocent until proven guilty! It remains to be seen how Sreesanth will come out from this and what effect this will have on the IPL and the country’s cricket on a whole. However, if you believe N Srinivasan, the most powerful man in world cricket today, a few bad eggs will not stop the juggernaut that is the Indian Premier League.
Interestingly enough, even as I speak, Rajasthan Royals has lost their match against Sunrisers Hyderabad. Cricket, you continue to amaze me!