For a man who is supposed to have been a serious student of psychology at one stage, Shantakumaran Sreesanth has really got it wrong much too often. The Kerala paceman — frankly, known more for his theatrics than penetrative bursts with the ball — has courted controversy repeatedly and flitted dangerously above the thin line between genuine aggression and absolute crassness.
This time though, he probably went too far and provoked Indian cricket’s other flammable personality, Harbhajan Singh, once too often. While there can be just no excuse for slapping/hitting/kicking/biting/whatever happens next in Indian cricket, it is difficult to believe that the attack was unprovoked or that the only thing Sreesanth said to Harbhajan was “Hard luck”, as some reports suggest.
Ever since he burst onto the national scene with his Challanger Trophy heroics in 2005, Sreesanth, the showman, has been allowed to take precedence over Sreesanth, the sportsman. And that’s the problem. Despite his periodic match-winning or match-turning efforts, it’s very difficult to think of Sreesanth and think cricket. What comes to mind is a maverick, with perhaps some kind of attention-seeking problem child.
There has to be some explanation for the weird faces and grimaces; the constant sniping at the opposition, the bizarre jigs like that unforgettable pelvic dance at the Wanderers in December 2006; the split-second swings from being spirited to combative to petulant. How do you pin down Sreesanth? He is someone who talks about himself in third person (which is always strange), a player who reportedly sheds copious tears in the dressing room when he doesn’t bowl well in a game India loses, undoubtedly gets under the opposition’s skin (not always a bad thing), but sadly, also someone who really riles his own team-mates.
There’s this instance from when a fellow India player was facing him at nets and got really angry because Sreesanth insisted on bowling wide outside the off-stump, ensuring that the batsman couldn’t get a proper bat and walked off in disgust.
But there are still others who agree that while he’s a loose cannon and somewhat emotional, he is severely misunderstood, and is affectionate, charming and extremely dedicated to the cause of the team. Well, if that’s true, then there’s a real communication problem between him and his mates. And there are definitely several Sreesanths living inside one body and it’s completely confusing to everybody else. He once famously remarked, “Sreesanth will always remain Sreesanth.” But it’s high time that whoever the real Sreesanth is also grew up.