A little bit of magic

A senior player once had this to say about Sreesanth — that he is the best swing and seam bowler to have emerged in India in the past decade; that he has limitless potential; that he also has a head wired differently from the rest of us. ‘The trouble is, when Sree acts up, the crowd loves it and encourages him. And Sree is immature enough to be taken in by the applause — he laps it up, and thinks that is the way to get popular. So when we tell him to tone his antics down, he has no reason to listen to us.’

If only, this player wished, Sree would realize that his best way to earn applause was to do what he does best — which is, bowl in ways that can make you sit up and take notice…

I’m no fan of Sree’s antics, and if the Kerala pacer had been banned for a period of time, as the BCCI had threatened to do, I’d have shed no tears. That said, on the odd occasion when the good ‘Shantakumaran’ (appropriately enough, ‘calm boy’ when Englished from the Malayalam) makes an appearance at the bowling crease, I am among his biggest fans. It took just three deliveries on the second morning, with the new ball, to show why.

Ishant, in the only over he got with the new ball, had upped his pace considerably; his last delivery was logged at 147.something — a stat that made you wonder if turning him off and switching Sree on for the 84th over was the right move. It was, and how.

It took him three deliveries to get his radar honed — and then, he hit perfection with a ball that slanted in from wide of the crease, hit the perfect length, seemed to pause momentarily, and then darted away, forcing a hesitant prod from Ashwell Prince.

The next ball was a dream — bowled from closer to the stumps, curving away in the air, drawing the batsman forward and, as it moved further, opening up that gap between bat and pad; it landed on length, and then jagged back in to beat Prince’s hopeful drive and knock over the furniture.

What was noticeable was the post-wicket celebration — muted, momentary, before he spun around and walked to the top of his mark, muttering to himself all the time. And then, another beauty to prolong Boucher’s series-long misery: again the perfect length, but this time darting away off the seam to find the batsman’s edge to the keeper.

To bowl those three deliveries in sequence — and coming in cold, in his first over with a new ball — is not the work of a novice. Watching him do it, I was again reminded of what that player had told me: if he can keep his wits about him and concentrate on his bowling, there is no better prospect in sight.


10 thoughts on “A little bit of magic

  1. How long should we carry Harbhajan as the lead spinner? He is neither doing the holding job nor is he taking wickets. Really, the lone spinner should be an attacking option all the time. Bhajji cant spin for nuts nor does he have the ‘just enough turn’ and the subtle variations of Kumble. Really, we should be having a serious look at Ojha as a spinning option. A left arm orthodox spinner who takes the ball away from the right hander is a better option any day.

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  3. Absolute shame that an under prepared wkt has been used in the Ranji semis match (Kar Vs Baroda)..(ageing Joshi gets a 4 wkt haul) What happened to the BCCI’s policy of playing knockout Ranji matches in neutral venues/ using the BCCI’s official curator to supervise pitch preparation. We can never win overseas series if this continues.

  4. Great to have you back on the blog. A bit surprised though, to see you linking MSD’s comments on Sree & its possible effect on the entire bowling unit on the 1st day. If that was the case, whats the explanation for today? Did MS fall at Sree’s feet overnight & that helped produce these magic deliveries? A bit dissapointing to see TOI-style analysis from someone of your calibre.

    Yes, there was a bit of wayward stuff from our bowlers, but overall, i think there was a delibrate plan to pitch it up & let the pitch & conditions do the rest. IMO, we had a bit of bad luck yesterday.. had a couple of the many edges gone straight to fielders instead of thro them, we might have had a different story for the day.. But thats how the sport goes, isn’t it? Trying to fit convoluted theories in a bit baffling, especially from someone like you.

    • First up, I did not say that the bowling unit underperformed because MS slanged Sree — that comment was made in isolation; I thought Sree deserved a kick in the ass (when does he not?), but I don’t agree with such public takedowns.

      I also agree that the bowling was overall on the better side, with patches of excellence. The problem I have with India as a bowling unit is the tendency to flag mentally — as they clearly did in the final session of day one, just when you needed them to be at their sharpest.

  5. O! I missed this magical spell:( Hope to catch it by night

    Instigating and getting instigated definitely has Sree always fired up. He needs a life coach to keep him on even keel:)

  6. While I agree completely that his first 3 balls were magical, I had assumed that everyone agrees that Zaheer Khan is the best seam/swing bowler to have emerged this decade – do you think Sreesanth without his dramatics is potentially better than Zaheer? (without his frequent injuries)

    • Apples and pineapples actually, mate. Zaheer is the finished article; Sreesanth is the as yet unexplored potential. We forget how long it took Zak to become what he is today, no? I’d reckon if Sree focusses on his skills these next 12 months, spends a season in England getting a taste of discipline and bloody hard work, he will take a giant step towards matching Zak. Will he be better? No idea — he has what it takes, the answer I think really lies in the space between his ears. Funnily enough, we tend to forget that Zak too began as a bit of a bad boy, both on the field and off it — remember his sledging of Gilchrist and Hayden, in the WC final?

  7. Ah, very well said. “If only he can his wits about him” – it pains to see him not to maximize the potential that he has. Many bowlers spend a life time getting the seam, swing and more importantly the control right and here’s someone who’s been blessed with it.

    Let’s hope that this year marks a new chapter in Sreesanth’s bowling career and like you said in your New Year post, let it be his Best Year too !! 🙂

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