“Feel Sorry For Sreesanth, A Sheer Waste Of Talent”, these words by Saurav Ganguly aptly sums up the woes that curtailed the bright career of Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. This statement came after the Kerala pace bowler’s name surfaced in the now infamous match-fixing saga in the 2013 IPL season. And the episode turned out to be the beginning of the end of a promising yet underutilized career.
The career trajectory of Sreesanth is similar to Vinod Kambli in some ways as the latter was considered way ahead of the Little Master aka Sachin Tendulkar. However, arrogance coupled with wavering dedication consigned Kambli to a mere has been of Indian cricket. The same holds true in the case of a gifted but “extremely wayward” Sreesanth as well.
The Perfect Beginning
Sreesanth made it to the Indian Team at a time when the side was going through a transition: Rahul Dravid had just taken over the reins from Ganguly when the latter lost his place in the side over a tiff with the then head coach Greg Chappel. The team at that time was heavily reliant on Zaheer Khan, whose bowling was beginning to lose both swing and sting as well. This was an ideal opportunity for Sreesanth to make his presence felt in the side and he did not disappoint in his debut series against Sri Lanka, despite being pitted against the giants such as Sanath Jayasuriya and Kumara Sangakkara. However, it was in the series against Pakistan and England that he proved he truly belongs to the international level. The career-best match figure of 6/55 at Indore against England turned out to be a game-changing moment for him and he hardly looked back from then on, but only for some time.
The Arrival Of A Fiery Pacer
The Kerala pacer had already given enough indications that he can own the big stage given the opportunity yet big career-defining moments were sorely missed in the fresh new episode. Any fast bowler would know that the real potential would only be judged based on their performance on foreign shores. The occasion arrived when he went to South Africa for the first time in 2006 and helped India not only win big but also defeat Proteas for the first time in a Test match on their soil.
Sreesanth was at his electrifying best on the Johannesburg track as he made the lives of Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis miserable en route to his first fifer(5/40). In fact, it won’t be wrong to say that he shared a romantic relationship with the South African wickets as in 2010 his 3/45 was one of the vital aspects in India beating South Africa in the Durban Test and also level the series in the Rainbow Nation, an incredible achievement for Team India back then.
Needless Aggression Casting A Spell On Bowling Efforts
As much as he was famous for his ability to swing and generate pace off the pitch, Sreesanth also started to gain notoriety for his on-field theatrics. The war cry post getting a wicket, the awkward gestures to vent his ire and constant swearing at the batsmen made him earn the tag of a professional heckler and even adversely impacted his bowling abilities. The situation became so critical that the then captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to warn Sreesanth to mend his ways or cool his heels at his home after Kerala pacer’s wild behaviour with Graeme Smith during the 2010 Test at Durban. “There is no problem between the teams. It’s one individual (Sreesanth) who has caused a few hassles and maybe crossed the line in certain ways. So, Dhoni and I had a chat to sort it out,” the former South African captain said highlighting the need to curb the aggression of Sreesanth. Prior to this, his slap-gate scandal involving Harbhajan Singh also created an unnecessary controversy during the inaugural season of IPL in 2008 and it looked as if Sreesanth was trying to make up for the inadequacies in his performance through such unsporting acts.
The Fall From The Grace
It was very much evident by 2010 that Dhoni had almost started to give up on Sreesanth and that is the reason he preferred Ashish Nehra over the mercurial bowler in the 2011 World Cup. However, like a bolt from the blue, Praveen Kumar got injured and Sreesanth made it to the squad of WC 2011 eventually. But things had worsened by then as he went for a lot of runs in a couple of matches that he featured in the world cup and the news of his involvement in the 2013 IPL match-fixing saga meant that he has kissed goodbye to his future prospects in Team India. However, he finally managed to overturn the life ban imposed on him and was permitted to play from September 2020 onwards. This turned out to be a case of too little too late.
The late thirties are never a good time for comebacks, especially in an era abound in teenage talents. After going unsold for two consecutive IPL seasons, Sreesanth finally got an opportunity in 2022 to make his mark for his state team Kerala in the Ranji Trophy and he did not disappoint as he picked up two wickets and bowled with a lot of heart and energy against Meghalaya. The subsequent injury only implied that it is perhaps time to call time on his “eventful” career and he did exactly as expected. But after taking a deep look at his journey thus far we have only one thing to say, “Better Luck (and Temperament) Next Time, Sree.”