The selectors get slammed for quirky decisions but picking Sreesanth was truly inspirational — at least on hindsight. There were twenty reasons to ignore him but the selectors detected a spark that most others failed to see. Had he gone wicketless, all of us would have been calling the selectors names.
For some time it seemed, Sreesanth was in the wrong areas, doing the wrong things. He wept, squabbled, threw tantrums, fought opponents, danced in silly TV shows and skipped training sessions. Naturally, eyebrows were raised and officials lost patience. An outraged BCCI first rebuked him and then, reading the riot act, issued a "final warning" to him.
Sreesanth's case proves that talent, if divorced from temperament, is a colossal waste. Nobody disputed Sreesanth's ability to move the ball but the question was whether he could keep himself as straight as the seam of the out-swinger he released.
In this context, compare Sreesanth with two greats, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, both prime examples of players maximising natural potential. Tendulkar has gifts far in excess of others but considering his hunger and focus it is no surprise that he has runs and hundreds also far in excess of anyone else. On the field and away from it, Sachin plays straight, takes no chances and studiously leaves anything peripheral alone — his devotion to cricket is complete.
Dravid is no different in making the most of what he’s got, though his gifts are considerably less than his more celebrated colleague. Dravid is supposed to be a notch lower than Tendulkar and Brian Lara but his record is as formidable.
In many ways, Dravid is the model player, an unassuming modest person who treats himself as a student of the game, forever trying to learn to improve his grades.
In an age when distractions are many, it is a challenge for talented players like Sreesanth to maintain focus and pursue excellence. Recently, a senior cricket official articulated a concern that youngsters did not value playing for India, that they chased money and fame instead. Others reacted by saying this is the real world, kids will play, jump and dance and keep one eye on the ball and the other on their bank balance.
Cricket will regularly discover big talent such as Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Ishant Sharma. It remains to be seen how many of these keep their head and make the cut.