Wednesday, 3 October 2007

The curious case of Sreesanth and his aggro

S Sreesanth comes across as a likeable fellow. Hailing from the backwaters of Kerala, where people prefer feet and a bigger ball, Sreesanth is an aberration. His unbridled enthusiasm, and not to forget his nippy pace, makes you sit up, take notice and do some online sports betting. Of late, it’s unfortunately his idiosyncrasies that he’s getting attention for.

Since Sourav Ganguly taught the new tit-for-tat language to his teammates, a Team India player is no more the one who would take his eyes off the opponent, lower his head and digest the abuse hurled from, say, an Australian bigmouth. That’s past. Instead, he would now stare eyeball-to-eyeball and is often the last to blink. He does not mind giving someone double his size a piece of his mind and is ready to meet fire with fire.

Naturally, we hailed Sreesanth when he hit Andre Nel for a six and then ferociously twirled his bat before finally breaking into a war dance of sort in South Africa.

But since the tour of England, Sreesanth’s aggression has been more of a worry, ask his the then embarrassed captain Rahul Dravid. The sign was clear that the demon within had just gotten out of control. You can call Kevin Pietersen names or spurn a dinner invitation from Matt Prior. But Michael Vaughan is not the guy you would barge into. And I’m not buying the theory that it was an inadvertent effort to actually rub shoulders with the English captain.

It should worry Team India that of late, Sreesanth has become a Match Referee’s favourite and his names dominate the meetings on breach of ICC code. Instead of going back to the nets to finetune his craft at the end of a match, Sreesanth is heading for the Match Referee’s room to be harangued on something as dull as code of conduct and he seems to have has made it a habit as well.

For a nation bullied and browbeaten for ages, Sreesanth positively reflects and probably personifies our ambition to settle all those old scores and pay everyone back in their own coin. But in doing so, Sreesanth is probably digressing from what is his primary job, to bowl and take wickets.

For a fast bowler, a minority community in India, it pays to be frugal. It’s a demanding job and hence tiresome. You have to be as miser as Ebenezer Scrooge with your energy to be effective. Some of the greatest bowlers we have seen -- and Andre Nel is not among them – did not need to mouth foul words to get a batsman out. In fact, I wonder, if that ever did the trick.

Had that been the case, Dennis Lillee would not have wasted his energy in the MRF Pace Academy trying to show a youngster how to grip the cherry for the perfect outswinger. Instead, he would have just arrived here with a truckload of sledge-lexicons and asked his wards to cram them.

In Sreesanth’s case, he is spending half of his energy on those verbal duels. It can be a huge distraction and even the most veteran player tends to get carried away. And he’s just 24!

Already he has embarrassed his captains, be it Dravid or Dhoni. Dravid had to issue a note to curb Sreesanth in England and Dhoni, on his arrival from the Twenty20 World Cup, admitted, though jokingly, that Sreesanth can become a captain’s worry.

Now, that’s the last thing you want to hear from your captain. If your skipper has to be more concerned with your volatile temper than team strategy, then you are not worth the place in the side. I mean, it still is not the case with Sreesanth but he should mend his ways.

The kind of aggression he shows actually stems from a petty selfishness. It’s like any street brawl. In such cases, ego takes over and you just go with the flow. It’s against the team’s interest, because you want to win that personal battle, even if that cost your team the war.

For Sreesanth, it’s not a major problem to channelise his energy. He in fact does not need to look beyond the team. Zaheer Khan could be a role model for him. He can learn from his elder pace colleague how to be aggressive and effective at the same time. How to have the batsmen on their toes, not because of your foul moth but because of your guiles. At the end of the day, cricket still remains a game where the bowler has to get the batsman out with the ball as his lone weapon. The sooner Sreesanth realizes it, the better.

Image: BBC

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