“A Daniel come to judgment! yea, a Daniel!”
This was one of my favorite lines from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Since I read it as a part of my curriculum in class X, way back in time, I have often used it in various conversations without really understanding what it actually meant. However, this week, the judiciary of this country and the BCCI has made it crystal clear to me.
It’s been quite a week of judgments. First, the four Delhi rape accused were sentenced to death and the careers of a few Indian cricketers met the same fate. While the Delhi sentence spread a nationwide happiness, the life-ban on the culprits of IPL spot fixing case, has somewhat left all of us with mixed emotions, just like - “Larry Wildman going off a cliff in my new Maserati.”
Sreesanth and company deserved what they got. It was an act of treason against the game and BCCI, for once, did the right thing by slapping them with life bans. Though, the cricket world should have no sympathy with the likes of Sreesanth and Ankit Chavan, one cannot simply ignore the fact that, in Sreesanth, Indian cricket lost one of its best talents.
S. Sreesanth has always been a difficult character, who lived life on the edge. Controversy has always been his close aid and he is perhaps the only cricketer, in this world, who has never received any support, even from his own team-mates.
It wasn’t their fault, Sreesanth asked for it and made it easier for them. His actions off-the-field created multiple headaches for the team management and on the field of play – he often left the captain red-faced with his unwarranted antics.
Sreesanth lived his life on the stage and more than his cricketing skills, the spectators were forced to concentrate on his theatrics on the ground. His atrocious over-rates, going through varied rituals before every delivery, was a pain for both the opposition and his captain. Even the umpires had to wait for his hat and glasses until he went through his elaborate shenanigans.
If that wasn’t enough, he made distasteful gestures at the opposition after being carted around the park and often threatened to throw the ball back at the batsman even after a solid defensive shot off a not-so-special delivery.
It is often said that a captain has to go an extra mile to handle difficult characters in the team and people might point a finger at MS Dhoni for not letting an arm around this temperamental bowler from Kerala.
Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t!
Maybe, not getting the best out of Sreesanth was Dhoni’s biggest failure as a captain.
Dhoni has his fair share of detractors, who have their reservations about his on field tactics, but even his biggest critics would hail his man management skills. Dhoni, throughout his tenure, has backed the youngsters and has believed that if a player is selected to play for India, he must have the required talent and invariably, lets them have a crack at the highest level for a substantial amount of time.
But how long can a captain hang on to one end of the rope, if the player concerned keeps lighting fire at the other end?
Maybe Dhoni ran out of patience with Sreesanth crossing the line, every time.
However, apart from being brilliant at landing in trouble, Sreesanth was blessed with another skill. He could produce spells of brilliance that would rip apart the defences of the best batsmen in the world.
The jaffa to Jacques Kallis, that left the big South African in the weirdest of tangles, was a work of art and his spell against the English at Indore was a demonstration of the talent the man possessed.
But then again, Sreesanth never looked at ease in the team and as time went by became an outsider. He hardly had close mates in the side, kept aloof from the team and eventually, the idea of “not having a godfather in the team”, stuck to his mind.