Against South Africa in 2006, S Sreesanth had his coming of age Test
Written by Shamik Chakrabarty
| Kolkata |

Updated: April 25, 2020 8:44:52 pm

Sreesanth picked up eight wickets in opposition to South Africa in the Johannesburg Test in 2006. (Source: File)

India was supposed to start out its four-month countdown to the Olympics this second. But compelled into an unprecedented, grim lockdown because the world battles the Covid-19 outbreak, sport is looking at unfathomable despair. Indian athletes although have given the nation causes to rejoice in the previous. The Indian Express appears again at a bunch of these recollections in ‘Those Months, Those Minutes’.

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At 10.40 pm, Sreesanth is lastly “done with practice”. He texts the rationale for his delayed response, assuring that he would name after “a quick shower”.

Sreesanth is wanting ahead to September, when he could be eligible to play severe cricket once more. Seven years in the past, his profession had come to a grinding halt for causes effectively documented. The international coronavirus pandemic and lockdown haven’t affected Sreesanth’s comeback rush.

He appears to the long run whereas rekindling the previous. The quick bowler reminisces in regards to the good previous days, when he was a star – his Man-of-the-Match efficiency on the Wanderers in Johannesburg 14 years in the past that helped India safe their first-ever Test win in South Africa.

The recreation was performed from December 15-18, 2006, and Sreesanth returned with an eight-wicket match haul, together with a primary innings five-for, in the guests’ 123-run victory.

Giving it again

“You ought to be grateful to Mahatma Gandhi,” Sreesanth informed Andre Nel. The warfare dance – ‘taming the horse’, because the Indian paceman places it – after hitting the South Africa fast for a six would comply with. The Mahatma reference was linked to the nice man’s combat in opposition to discrimination in South Africa, which impressed Nelson Mandela, the nation’s liberator, and introduced an finish to apartheid.

“I informed them loads of issues. The message was clear; don’t mess with this Indian workforce. They at all times believed they wouldn’t get it again. Dada (Sourav Ganguly) began (to provide it again). I used to be kindergarten. He was a PhD. And I believe Virat Kohli can be a doctorate. I cared a rattling if individuals thought I used to be mad,” Sreesanth permits himself a hearty chortle.

The build-up to the Test had a contact of acrimony, with Jacques Rudolph stoking the flames.

“Before the Test, we had a tour game at Potchefstroom and Jacques Rudolph (he captained Rest of South Africa) had made a statement, ‘Sreesanth is an overrated bowler and they (India) have a bad pace attack’. He was specifically asked about me and he had said, ‘I don’t rate him as a (Test) bowler’. I can proudly say he couldn’t score a single run against me (in that game). His comment really charged me up as we went into the first Test.”

READ | S Sreesanth: Prisoner of his past

Ganguly’s serving to hand

Sreesanth hasn’t been concerned in cricket since 2013. (Express Photo)

Ganguly was making a comeback to the Indian workforce in that sequence, and given his fallout with then India coach Greg Chappell, was in all probability only one failure away from being dropped once more. But not solely did the previous captain rating an important unbeaten half-century in the primary innings, however he additionally performed an important function in Sreesanth’s success. The bowler repays his debt of gratitude.

“Dada got here as much as me and stated, ‘Sree, I know you are finding it difficult to bowl to left-handers. I don’t thoughts coming and batting (on the nets) and serving to you out’. Dada was so eager and due to him… He actually helped me on the nets. He used to go early to the follow periods at Potchefstroom and I bowled loads to Dada, Sachin paaji (Tendulkar), Rahul bhai (Dravid), Viru bhai (Virender Sehwag) and (VVS) Laxman. I believe bowling to them made me a a lot better bowler.”

Among Sreesanth’s 5 wickets in the primary innings, Graeme Smith was a lefty. Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher and Shaun Pollock have been his different scalps. It was his maiden five-for in Test cricket. South Africa folded up for 84 in their first innings and solely three batsmen – Kallis, Ashwell Prince and Nel reached double figures.

It was Sreesanth’s coming-of-age efficiency. He dismissed Smith, Amla, and Kallis in the second innings as effectively.
Sreesanth, although, refuses to revel in any self-serving recollections.

“Dada performed a really massive function. Zaheer Khan and even VRV Singh additionally scored some essential runs in the second innings, which actually helped. Anil Kumble bowled some glorious spells.”

All stated and achieved, Sreesanth loved the added duty that his skipper and coach, Dravid and Chappell, needed him to shoulder.

“At the team meeting on match eve, they told me, ‘Sree, it’s high time you start winning matches. You did that in the West Indies with Munaf Patel and company, so you can do it’. I’m really thankful to Greg Chappell and Rahul bhai. They really pushed me and made me believe in my abilities.”

READ | Abhinav Bindra’s right turn on road to redemption

Chappell’s ‘culture’ made a distinction

Greg Chappell as soon as in contrast Sreesanth to a Ferrari, operating on high-octane gas. (Source: Reuters)

TA Sekhar was Sreesanth’s mentor on the MRF Pace Foundation. For somebody who began as a leg-spinner, loads of modifications, action-wise, have been wanted when Sreesanth switched to quick bowling. Sekhar was at all times there, able to stroll the additional mile for the teen and a bond was shaped.

“His (Sekhar’s) advice before the Test was to keep it simple. ‘The most important thing is to have belief. If the pitch is going to help you, that doesn’t mean you try too hard. You got to keep it very simple and very boring’. That’s what Sekhar sir told me.”

Something comparable got here from Chappell, who in contrast Sreesanth with a Ferrari, operating on high-octane gas. ‘Middle stump line, trying to hit off stump. That’s all it’s a must to do all through the day’.

Chappell’s demand from his quick bowler was easy and clear-cut. The two developed a effective rapport. Honing his abilities underneath Dennis Lillee on the MRF Pace Foundation had helped Sreesanth get acquainted with the Australian college of teaching. The boy from Kothamangalam, Kerala, in reality, embraced it. Little marvel then that he fell for Chappell’s teaching model.

“He (Chappell) performed an enormous function. Not simply me, even Dhoni bhai, (Suresh) Raina, Irfan (Pathan), Ishant (Sharma) additionally. Rather a lot of individuals received’t talk about it, however in my case, I can say he helped me loads. He taught me to eat proper, sleep proper… And it was simple for me, for I used to be formed up by the Australian cricket tradition. The Australian means of teaching is considerably totally different. Rather a lot of individuals don’t perceive that. But I used to be lucky that I got here from the MRF Pace Foundation and I might handle and modify. It’s about giving your best and having fun with the method with out worrying in regards to the outcomes. Greg Chappell was very strict and handled each particular person the identical means and by no means did the worshipping half.”

READ | When PT Usha flew: 3 days, 11 races, 5 golds

After profitable the primary Test, India misplaced the following two to concede the sequence. But Sreesanth had one other eight-wicket haul in the second Test at Durban. And it was nonetheless a comparatively comfortable dressing room then. Discords began to floor from early 2007, and reached the tipping level after the World Cup debacle.

“Maybe, he (Chappell) was overconfident that he would win the World Cup with that Indian team. We had won 17 ODIs in a row (while chasing). Even in the first warm-up game (before the World Cup proper), we got the West Indies all out for a very low score. So when we played against Bangladesh, very few saw Tamim Iqbal coming and crushing us. At the same time, I think there were far too many experiments and everybody in the dressing room had been speaking about its negative side.”

Sreesanth’s subsequent South Africa tour was in 2010-11, when India managed to attract the three-Test sequence 1-1. A couple of months down the road, he went on to win the World Cup. Then, the Ferrari crashed.

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