'The Aussies should be worried I am coming' - Sreesanth
"I love the spotlight. The Aussies should be worried I am coming." Meet the quote-a-minute, bold and brash Sreesanth. He even refers to himself in the third person. "Sreesanth's way is to be aggressive. Sreesanth will always remain Sreesanth."
Sreesanth was in Delhi, where it's bitterly cold, as the chief guest for the Gatorade Pacers' talent hunt but didn't allow the weather to dampen his spirits. The press descended on the arena and he indulged them, extensively and individually. Even as the event wrapped up in the evening and the attendees hurried towards the warmth of their cars, Sreesanth was addressing his audience, revelling in the spotlight.
A shoulder injury had ruled him out of the home Tests against Pakistan and the ongoing series in Australia but he has been training and is ready to make a comeback during the triangular series in Australia in February.
"More than their [Australia's] batsmen, I have been working on my own bowling," Sreesanth said. "I felt my left arm was not kicking into the bowling action properly. So I went back to the technique I picked up at the MRF Pace Foundation years before. I held a ball in my left hand too and, now, I had to drag it back down so that I could hurl the one in my right hand properly. As a result, the left palm doesn't open out and the hand doesn't fall away. I have just worked on my load-up too and I'm very pleased with the way everything is going."
He cannot wait to get to Australia. He recounted with glee the sledging in the recent Australia-India encounters that he played in and took pride in how "we [India] never backed down. Why should we? We have players who can give it back with interest."
It's not all hot air, though, and his talent for the verbal battle surfaced when he told of an incident involving Brian Lara. "He [Lara] defended a ball with an exaggerated back-and-across movement and I just stood there and murmured my disapproval," Sreesanth said. "Next ball he was beaten and I said, 'is this the King Charles Lara? Who is this impostor, moving around nervously?
"I should have kept my mouth shut for the next ball - mind you, it was a length ball - Lara just pulled it over the church beyond the boundary! He is a true legend."
Sreesanth's cricketing life seems to be a series of Youtube moments. He explained his famous dance after hitting Andre Nel for a six in Johannesburg.
"He [Nel], along with [Mark] Boucher and [Herschelle] Gibbs were constantly at me. Nel tapped his chest and said, 'you need a big heart to play' and he sniffed in the air and said, 'I smell blood.' I sniffed back, 'where where?' and prayed to God to give me the strength to hit that six. You should have seen his face. I asked him, 'how was that slap and where is your tongue now?' He just went quietly back to his run-up."
The manner in which Sreesanth re-tells these incidents makes you feel that he enjoys the adrenalin rush in the middle. In his mind, he is the biggest star in the world and the cricket field is a great stage for him to enact his own script. "What's the worst that can happen? Six sixes? I can always come back next over. All I need is just one ball to get him [the batsman] out."
Unlike other bowlers who remember their wickets, Sreesanth remembers how many catches were dropped off him. "They will tell me I took x number of wickets but I will add these dropped catches to them. It helps me lift myself when my mood is down." Sreesanth's brother actually records the number of dropped catches and keeps him informed and motivated.
In February, Sreesanth will once again encounter the likes of Matthew Hayden and Andrew Symonds with whom he has had run-ins in the past. Unless he has mellowed down during his forced rest, expect more fiery exchanges on the field.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo