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No takers for Sreesanth's theatrics

cricket Updated: Feb 10, 2011 00:38 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
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The footage of a delirious Sreesanth dancing in front of South African pace bowler Andre Nel and swinging the bat over his head after hitting him for six on the 2006 tour is still repeated on television. That incident also thrust the maverick bowler into limelight as he was branded a disruptive figure in the game.

Harbhajan Singh's slapping of Sreesanth in the Indian Premier League two seasons ago and the bowler's recent run in with South African skipper Graeme Smith in the second Test in Durban have only reinforced the belief that his behaviour does more harm than good to his team.

Smith had to be calmed by skipper MS Dhoni on the sidelines of an awards function.

And Dhoni later made clear his annoyance with the talented but temperamental paceman.

BCCI Ultimatum
Sreesanth has repeatedly fallen foul of his opponents, team mates and officials alike. Although he promises to mend his ways, the bowler has continued to draw attention for his boorish behaviour. In 2009, both the Indian cricket board and the Kerala Cricket Association issued ultimatums to him over his conduct on the field.

Some suspect these are publicity stunts. Sreesanth's parents and coaches vehemently deny that. "If at all there is a problem, then it is about using his energy and passion for the game in the right direction."

Recalling Sreesanth's junior days, his brother Dipusanth says his younger brother used to react the same way if he was hit for runs, and even got into scuffles on the field. "But that used to end on the ground itself. I remember that during an inter-school match, he had a run in with an opposition batsman and things got ugly. But after the match, that boy came to our house with Sree, and my brother gave him his bat to play.

"Sreesanth bowls with the same passion whether he is bowling his first over of the day or the last. He is the same even when he is playing music, dancing or doing other work."

Passion play
His coach and mentor P Sivakumar takes the argument a step further. "For a bowler from Kerala to break into the national squad was never going to be easy. And it is Sreesanth's passion for the game and his never-say-die spirit that have been the most important factors in his rise."

But was he not worried it could get him into trouble with umpires and officials? "I won't say I was not concerned. Even in local matches, the umpires used to complain against him. I even sent him to yoga classes before he broke into the national squad. But the teacher told me 'if we took away the passion and aggression out of him then he won't be the same Sreesanth'."

The player's maternal uncle KMG Nair, a retired army officer, has a different take. "I don't understand all this fuss about his aggression. Time and again, Sreesanth's never-say-die attitude has helped India win matches when nothing was going their way. But he needs to channelise that energy."

The maverick bowler is also aware that his reputation is hurting his chances. "He has matured a lot over the years. But you cannot take the passion out of him," Nair signs off.