If you ask a number of Indian Cricket Fans from the past couple of decades, to list down the names of the Cricketers they consider to be the most passionate about the Game of Cricket & about the National Cricket Team, one name would feature in most of these lists. The name would be of none-other-than the incredibly gifted swing bowler Shanthakumaran Nair Sreesanth.
So it came as a shock, when he got embroiled in a spot-fixing scandal in IPL 2013. Fast forward to 2020, the Supreme Court has since, lifted the life ban imposed by BCCI and has cleared him of all malicious charges. Sreesanth is all set to return to his native Ranji Trophy side Kerala to showcase his talents. He has also been extremely vocal about his eagerness to don the Blue Indian Jersey after 9 Long Years.
Here we list five reasons why Sreesanth deserves a comeback into the Indian National Team:
1. Magical Outswingers –
Sreesanth as a youngster, was known for his prodigious out-swinging deliveries, sometimes even from the leg stump to hit the top of off. The fast bowler has bowled magical deliveries and produced multiple match winning spells for the country. The smooth action, upright seam position with the wrist absolutely dead straight at the point of release, he was a coach’s delight.
With the new ball in Tests as well as ODIs he was not someone who you could take lightly. After Zaheer Khan, he was the quickest amongst the lot, with a heavy bouncer, which everyone was wary off.
2. Big Match Player –
My favourite Sreesanth moments were dismissals of Gilchrist and later Hayden in the Semifinals of the 2007 T20 World Cup. Yuvraj scored a brilliant 70 of 30 balls, but the Aussies, particularly Hayden was going great guns in their chase. It was Sreesanth who clean bowled Hayden and derailed the Aussie innings.
The ‘Pitch Banging’ celebration which Sreesanth perfomed that day, after dismissing Hayden, was an absolute statement to the Aussies. For those of you, who have not witnessed cricket in the Australian era from 1999 – 2011, they were the Juggernauts of Cricket, destroying every team coming in their way. So when Sreesanth dismissed Hayden, I as an Indian cricket fan believed in my team which said that we are not afraid of the Aussies.
3. Ability to take Big Wickets –
Since his younger days, Sreesanth had the propensity to target the bigger batsman in the opposing team. It is said that once he had went up and glared at Sachin Tendulkar in a domestic game. The next ball Tendulkar had hit him for six and warned him not to come that close again. We have no evidence of such an incident, but it is part of Sreesanth folklore.
Sreesanth has a Test bowling average of 37 and in ODIs, 33. This is acceptable for a fast bowler in Indian conditions. But the amazing part of Sreesanth’s bowling was his ability to dismiss the best batsmen in the opposition side.
Sreesanth had taken 87 Test wickets, 75 ODI wickets and 7 T20I wickets. But the striking feature amongst this record is that in his 169 career wickets, he has dismissed Hashim Amla six times, AB De Villiers, Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen five times each and also dismissed Brian Lara twice.
4. Extremely effective in SENA countries –
As an Indian cricket fan, we have watched series after series when Indian batsman faced a barrage of Fast Bowlers in South Africa, England, Australia and New Zealand(SENA) and folded like a pack of cards. But it was in the series against South Africa in 2006, when we saw the opposition batsmen ducking & jumping around while facing the Indian pacers. It was this series in which Sreesanth was in peak form. He gave Test greats like Kallis and Smith a torrid time and achieved his best Test match figures of 8/99.
Sreesanth has till date played 27 Test matches, taking up 87 Test wickets. His stats say that out of his ten best bowling performances – 8 performances have come on foreign soil. Besides, 6 of such bowling performances have come in SENA countries.
The Indian cricket fans still remember the bouncer he had bowled to dismiss Jacques Kallis in that series in 2006. The first Test Match of the series against South Africa in 2006 wherein Sreesanth had recorded his best Test figures was the first Test match which India has won in South African soil ever, such was his impact on Test Cricket.
5. Passion speaks for the Man –
Sreesanth is one of most passionate players to have played cricket for the Indian Team. Each of his appeals and wicket taking celebrations was evidence of the passion with which he played his game. It was apparent that he played cricket with utmost humility and was always ready to fight back for his team. His antics were a part of his behaviour, which showed that how much he enjoyed playing for his country.
The Indian cricket fans very well remember the incident in South Africa, when fast bowler Andre Nel had made it a point to sledge Indian batsmen. But when it came to sledging Sreesanth, Nel was unaware who he was getting into a fight with. Andre Nel had fired a bouncer which Sreesanth had ducked. Nel with his tail up, came up to Sreesanth and hurled abuses at him.
Sreesanth was not someone who would sit back and the very next delivery he faced of Andre Nel. He deposited it in the stands and broke into a dance move, while swinging his bat in the air. The dance moves, is part of cricketing folklore now and teaches us that we should not mess with passionate people like Sreesanth, who know how to give it back.
Sreesanth, now 37, has fought a long legal battle and won the war against lies and deceit, which robbed 7 golden years of his career. But passionate people like him cannot be kept out of the game for long. He is due to make a comeback in another two months time and we hope to see him donning the blue jersey soon.