“I must run with hope in my heart and dreams in my head. I love this game (it’s the best thing that’s happened to me),” wrote fast bowler S Sreesanth, a day before he will lead the Board President’s XI attack against the touring Australians. The Kerala speedster, while capable of coming up with original one-liners, was quoting the great Emil Zatopek.
While Sreesanth might not know a whole lot about Zatopek, the Czech long-distance runner who won three gold medals at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, he could not have chosen a more apt quote.
After all, when Sreesanth arrived on the international scene, he made an instant impact, and anyone who played him knew that he was not merely quick, he had the skill to make life miserable for batsmen.
What was a serious doubt, however, was his ability to last the distance. If you looked at a cricketing career as a marathon, then forget Zatopek, Sreesanth hasn’t even managed to run quarter the distance without breaking down. The injuries were something he could hardly do much about, for they were neither repeat problems nor those that come from a flawed bowling action.
When on song — like in Johannesburg in 2006 where he took eight wickets and propelled India to their first Test win in South Africa — you can forgive him.
Even for usually inexcusable things like the repeated disciplinary problems that forced the cricket board to threaten to suspend him from domestic cricket or the ugly spat in the IPL with Harbhajan Singh and the theatrical weeping.
What will not be forgiven, however, is squandering the obvious talent that Sreesanth has as a cricketer. For a 27-year-old who has played just 17 Tests, the time to put the past behind and make the most of what’s left has already arrived. The authorities clearly believe that Sreesanth is special enough to be given a long rope, but the suspicion that he went into the recent tour of Sri Lanka carrying an injury, and has been thrown another lifeline.
Abhimanyu Mithun, who did nothing wrong in the Tests he played on lifeless wickets where Mahendra Singh Dhoni repeatedly lost the toss, has lost his place in the squad, and Sreesanth, must make full use of the game ahead. All indications suggest that the three-day match at the Sector 16 Stadium in Chandigarh will allow flexibility to the Australians to try and give as many batsmen and bowlers a chance to spend time out in the middle.
On Friday, the Australians had to postpone their net session with rains leaving the practice pitches wet in the morning.
The Board President’s XI were a slightly different story, with Gautam Gambhir and Saurabh Tiwary arriving in the city late in the afternoon, leaving the remaining 13 to have a net session. Every Australian cricketer has stressed the need to make training days and match day ahead of the first Test count. For Sreesanth, and India’s good, Sreesanth needs to adopt that attitude for each day that remains in his career.