I have always cherished watching expressive characters in the cricket field. Indeed, they play a critical part in making the game as thrilling a spectacle as it is. I, for one, used to watch Shane Warne bowl as much for his twirling skills as for his histrionics involving mostly the batsmen and sometimes even the umpires. Needless to say, he was among the most competitive players ever to have played cricket. Indian speedster Sreeshanth, in his shortish career so far, has shown a very keen desire to match him in that arena. In terms of sheer theatrics, he perhaps surpassed the Aussie legend when he broke into an inconceivable dancing spree mid pitch after smacking a six off Andre Nel.
All said and done, cricket is more about scoring runs and taking wickets than anything else. While skills are a must-have, the mental and behavioral aspects play no trivial role towards a player’s performance. Aggression has been much talked about in that respect, of late. Indians, led by Sreeshanth and Harbhajan, have been very liberal with their tongue in recent times, particularly against Australia. But, does blurting out ceaseless gibberish equate to aggression?
Being aggressive as a bowler is about the unflagging belief that I can get anyone out anywhere in any match situation. More so, it’s about being proactive wherein you create chances out of thin air as opposed to patiently waiting for them to come your way. The logic behind taking a (verbal) dig at the opposition batter is simply to aid this process of inducing reckless mistakes from him. I have a feeling that Sreeshath overlooks this fundamental objective altogether, leading him to behave like a toddler in the company of men. The way he carries on with his antics irritates the viewers more than the batsmen who, by now, have brushed him aside as a crackpot.
One quality I admire in all great competitors is the generosity to applaud a praiseworthy feat by an opponent. Sreeshath’s act of clapping in Symonds’ face after the latter returned to the dressing room following a combative knock is truly against the spirit of sports. He wasn’t even in the playing eleven in that match! Being a sportsman, the least you have got to be able to do is to respect the achievements of your counterparts. Sree has got this one miserably wrong as well. To my mind, this is the most disgraceful aspect of his play, much more lamentable than his endless, pointless chatter.
It was no coincidence that it was Sreeshanth who was at the receiving end of Harbhajan’s smack. Most of the cricketing fraternity opined that Sree “had it coming”. For his own good more than the team’s, I hope he takes a hard look at himself. Else, he is headed the Shoaib way – being preoccupied with cheesy tantrums and ending up with a career that promised more than it delivered.
PS: One of my favourite two-way sledges (in the clean category):
Glamorgan quickie Greg Thomas to Viv Richards in a county match, after beating his bat a couple of time: “It’s red, round and weighs about five ounces, in case you were wondering.”
King Viv, after thrashing the next delivery out of the ground, into a river: “Greg, you know what it looks like. Now go and find it.”