Shanthakumaran Sreesanth – the mercurial bowler
“In the air… Sreesanth takes it… India win(s)!” Those were the famous words spoken by Ravi Shastri as India became the inaugural T20 World cup winners. Just a year ago the same man, Sreesanth became the reason for India’s first Test win on the South African soil. Two achievements that stand out in a career that swung like a new white ball.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was born on 6th February 1983 in Kerala – the southernmost state of India. Representing a state not known for producing many cricketers, Sreesanth went on to become a regular bowler in all three formats for India.
The right arm fast-medium bowler could generate a pace of 140-145 kmph consistently. However, the major weapon of Sreesanth was not his pace his swing. His away swinger to a right-handed batsman was a treat to the eyes as the seam position on the ball leaving his hand would not budge, even a centimeter.
Of course, with greater pace comes greater waywardness. At times, Sreesanth would bowl erratic and his economy would suffer. He would overstep trying to search extra pace. Yet, on his day, he would be vicious. When fired up, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth was neither shaant (calm) nor sant (saint).
Sreesanth made his mark on the horizon of Indian cricket at a young age. He earned his Duleep Trophy South Zone selection when he was only 19. Subsequently, he became the first Kerala bowler to take a hattrick in Ranji Trophy when he registered it against Himachal Pradesh in 2004.
Man of the series performance in the Challenger Trophy of 2005 took Sreesanth closer to being a part of the Indian team dressing room. He made his ODI debut against Sri Lanka that year but failed to establish himself for a longer duration in the colored clothings.
Sreesanth did well in the Test cricket arena though as he enjoyed a good debut series at home against England. He reached his zenith when his 5/40 saw South Africa getting all out for only 84 thus handing India its first Test victory on the South African soil.
The inaugural T20 Worldcup proved an enjoyable affair for Sreesanth. He took the important wickets of Gilchrist and Hayden who were threatening to take the semi-final away from India. As mentioned earlier, he took the catch of Misbah that gave India the trophy.
Controversies, however, followed Sreesanth like a shadow. His altercation with Sachin Tendulkar in a Ranji trophy match, His duel against Andre Nel (It will make you laugh no matter how many times you see it), His slap gate incident with Harbhajan and the black spot of spot-fixing, the list is quite long.
Sreesanth played his last match at the age of 30 and is unlikely to play ever again as the ban on him continues. Indian fans will grimace at a career that could have well ended as the spearhead of Indian bowling.