Sreesanth's new-found approach is heartening

Sreesanth's new-found approach is heartening

Paceman should let the ball do all the talking

Sreesanth's new-found approach is heartening

 S Sreesanth has grabbed his opportunity with both hands. AFPThe much-discussed Kerala paceman calls himself one of the most misunderstood cricketers going. That’s a little naïve coming from someone who has managed to stay in the news even when not knocking batsmen over, though during India’s 100th Test triumph, at Green Park against Sri Lanka, there was a perceptible change in his attitude and approach.

Sreesanth is a natural talent, blessed with the unique ability to swing a cricket ball appreciably, an art fast fading the world over. When he is in control of himself and his wide gamut of emotions, he is more than a handful.

In Johannesburg three years back, he turned in an exhibition of swing bowling that had then coach Greg Chappell transfixed. The bolt upright seam, bearing down on the right-handed batsman and angled away towards the slip cordon, hardly wobbled throughout the duration of a game that saw India register their first win on South African soil, prompting the former Aussie skipper to say he had never seen anyone control the seam so brilliantly for so long.

Then only 23, the world was Sreesanth’s for the taking. He appeared set for the long haul, India thankful that a young quick had arrived to shoulder the workload alongside the experienced Zaheer Khan. Since then, though, Sreesanth’s career has gone south. His on-field antics and his propensity to get into trouble off it raised justifiable question marks over his temperament and his commitment to the team’s cause.

Dumped from the national side after the final Test against South Africa, also at Green Park, in March 2008, Sreesanth was involved in the infamous Slapgate, picked up a shoulder injury that kept him out of most of IPL II, attracted a fine and a final warning from the Board of Control for Cricket in India after his run-in with Dhawal Kulkarni during the Irani Cup and was slapped with a final warning too by the Kerala Cricket Association for missing the early part of the Ranji Trophy camp.

It is too early to say with any conviction that the two ‘final warnings’ have had an effect. Before his comeback Test here, Sreesanth addressed his team-mates, promising them that he was a changed man who had learnt his lessons.

He vowed not to repeat mistakes of the past, and then proceeded to show that he could breathe fire even without spewing verbal venom by running through Sri Lanka in the first innings of the second Test. Sreesanth can’t be blamed for believing his international career was over until his unexpected recall.

Successive captains have lost patience and energy trying to make him mend his errant ways; Mahendra Singh Dhoni went to the extent of saying during the World T20 in South Africa in 2007 that Sreesanth ‘must play the way I want him to play’.

His return to the Test set-up was necessitated by Ishant Sharma’s patchy form, a desperate need to find adequate and incisive back-up for Zaheer, himself returning from injury, and, most significantly, his own bowling during the Irani Cup.

In phases, he was outstanding for Rest of India against Mumbai in Nagpur early last month, grabbing the eyeballs of Krishnamachari Srikkanth’s selection panel. It was obvious that despite his travails, he hadn’t forgotten how to swing the cricket ball, that he still possessed that something extra which made him stand out from the rest. In many ways, calling up Sreesanth out of the blue was a massive gamble; that gamble has the trappings of a masterstroke now.

Sreesanth’s graph is on the upswing again, not unlike after Johannesburg where too he was man of the match after a five-for.

Once again, the expectations are high but now, they come with a rider – will he continue to stay reformed?

There is nothing wrong about wearing one’s heart on his sleeve. Without white-line fever, cricket will be dull and uninteresting.

Especially for a fast bowler, a certain aggression is a must, but that aggression needs to be channelised and within limits.

This week, Sreesanth proved to himself that controlled aggression works better than frothing at the mouth.

Despite his stirring bowling at the Wanderers, Sreesanth has been remembered for his spontaneous jig after smashing Andre Nel over his head for  six. At Green Park, it was his bowling alone that made news. As it should, indeed.