I’m just having a go, says Sreesanth
These statements aren’t intended as a slight on Sreesanth’s character. They are, in fact, his own observations. Eccentric, forthright and always unpredictable, a conversation with India’s newest fast bowling star is every bit as interesting as a match in which he is playing. Incite on the field. Insight off it.
“I am a child,” Sreesanth said, responding to Andrew Symonds’s recent criticisms. “They are all legends. It is a dream come true to play against Ricky Ponting or Matthew Hayden. I am a child of the game, I am still learning. I am sure most of them went through things when they were inexperienced like me. Hopefully I learn faster.”
Even in his youth, the spotlight has never been far away. A national dance champion, Sreesanth resisted the lure of Bollywood to focus on cricket, leaving the family home in Cochin to attend a prestigious cricketing school in Bangalore as a teenager.
In keeping with his mode of bowling, Sreesanth’s rise through the ranks was brisk – a Ranji Trophy hat-trick catching the eye of national selectors who, in turn, thrust him into the international arena at the age of 22. Since then, the demonstrative paceman, now 24, has seldom been out of the headlines, either for his bowling exploits or his acts of aggression.
In a single Test against England earlier this year, Sreesanth beamed Kevin Pietersen, unleashed a bouncer at Paul Collingwood from a full stride over the crease, and was fined 50 per cent of his match-fee for shoulder-barging Michael Vaughan. He was also docked 25 per cent of his match payments for excessive appealing after dismissing Matthew Hayden during the Twenty20 World Championship semi-final; an act which hardly endeared him to the Australians.
“I should curb some of my antics,” he said. “I think it is habit but I think I will have to pull back the antics a bit. I don’t regret anything but I have learnt the hard way. I have to make sure I don’t repeat anything that hurts any player or the game. Hopefully everything will fall in place and I play good cricket.
“This is the way I have played my cricket from under-13 state camps. I am still the same but I have to control my emotions a little bit more. I just be myself and enjoy the game. I feel when you are fired up against world-class players they will be at their best.
“No one likes it when a player comes and starts staring at you. I just try to do my best. If a player comes up and stares, you go, ‘What the hell’.
“The moment I get back to my room I don’t bother about anything.”
Though his recent hostility towards Brad Haddin and Symonds might suggest otherwise, Sreesanth owes much to Australia. He has been coached by Dennis Lillee, recites lessons preached by Steve Waugh in his autobiography and has been involved with the Centre of Excellence.
“He was popular, then he was struggling but he kept trying and he came back,” Sreesanth said of Waugh. “He said if you are down in the seventh and eighth rounds or the ninth round you can come back in the 10th. He taught me you have to do the small things; the things others refuse to do. You have to be hard working and that’s one thing I learnt from him.
“I was really charged up [in Cochin]. The last time when Australia played India I was sitting in the gallery with my best friend and Sachin [Tendulkar] got 5-32. I got the opportunity to play against Australia, the best side, my family came to the stadium. I wanted to show my crowd that Australians might be the best, but I can stand up to them and bowl.”
After the match, Sreesanth headed to a Christian church for prayers. Unusual, as ever.