01 January 2007

That Sreesanth Moment

Its been a few days since THAT happened, and removed from the headiness of the moment, the videos of it on YouTube are educative. And it says much more than the nuances of a pelvic thrust. Everyone has seen it. Everyone agrees that people need to watch the video and not just read about it. Anyway, for those who haven’t seen it, the bare essential story goes somewhat like this. Nel tries to bounce Sree who backs away to whack him, and misses completely. Nel – as usual – motions to the number ten batsman that he lacks the heart to get into the line of the ball. Next ball. Fuller length from Nel. Sree backs away and makes an almighty swing which connects with the ball, and sends it sailing over long on. And then it happened. Sree proceeds to run down the pitch, twirling the bat over his head and after Nel had seen him, thrusts his pelvis out a few times. It was truly entertaining cricket. Naturally, ToI and HT made much more noise of the Sreesanth moment than The Hindu did (a few lines, I think, but on two separate days).

Was it actually a rare symbol of naked and aggressive ebullience in Indian cricket? Come to think of it, the last symbol of naked aggression (well, nakedness at least) was when Ganguly took his shirt off at Lords. Since then, the team scaled a few heights and climbed out of a few new lows – finding and discarding a few heroes on the way. M S Dhoni has lost some of his sheen, and Raina has lost all of it. Kaif - along with Bhajji anf Yuvraj - was a posterboy of the heady days of the Ganguly rein. Now he is treated like an itch in an uncomfortable place. (Anyone remember him doing the boy-on-the-burning-deck-routine batting against the visiting Aussies and the English? No? That’s my point.) In the space of a season, Pathan has gone from being blue-eyed messiah to fifth choice seamer. Serious questions are being asked about Sehwag’s commitment to the cause. But through it all, through the mess that masquerades as the Indian ODI record through the last year, the fortunes in test cricket have not been bad. The captaincy – though as different from the Ganguly way as one could imagine, has by and large been appreciated. In the batting, Dravid and Laxman have made stand out performances, and the return of Ganguly adds to the impression of solidity. It will be interesting though, how Ganguly will be treated once Yuvraj Singh of the Sweetest Timing – not He of The Drunken Brawl - announces his fitness. Kumble as usual, has soldiered on. No small part has been played by the quick bowling that has not allowed Pathan’s lost mojo to be a huge cause for concern. Both Munaf Patel and Sreesanth have displayed a knack of bowling a high percentage of wicket taking deliveries. Munaf bowls a probing line and length, and Sree can really swing it. In the West Indies, they led the attack and can take a measure of credit for the first series win there in godknowshowmany years. The return of Zak, new and improved, leaner and meaner, in South Africa, has lent the bowling versatility as well. And VRV Singh is waiting in the wings for an opportunity to unleash some genuine pace.

In the one day cauldron however, both Munaf and Sree have shown an immaturity that made them fodder at the death - precisely why Irfan’s loss of form hurts so much. His consistent batting means that India would have had a genuine all-rounder option if only his bowling was a half as good as it was – collecting numerous wickets with the new ball. In the absence of that delicious possibility, Sree and Munaf have to shoulder a bit more responsibility, and need to get their act together in one-day cricket, really fast. Along with the spineless nature of the batting, the lack of intelligent bowling at the death has also cost them dearly through the past year. And with the world cup just around the corner, their efforts may just peak at the right time, and compliment the Zaheer Khan show.

The Sreesanth moment however, just demonstrated how young a cricketer he really is. After the second Test match, his tally might have risen to sixteen, and he has displayed exceptional enthusiasm, the captain only needing to look in his direction. Just about everyone on TV is talking about his seam position. But the fact of the matter is, no matter how good your seam position is, a bowler is only as good as his head will let him be. If he keeps getting carried away like this, he will be mincemeat at the hands of experienced and imposing batsmen. With the World Cup around the corner, there is every chance that Sree might face the same problems that an overcharged Zaheer faced at the hands of a marauding Hayden in the 2003 finals.


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