South Africa v India, 1st Test, Jo'burg, 2nd day December 16, 2006

The talk with Donald helped - Sreesanth



'It was particularly nice to take [Jacques] Kallis' wicket because I've watched him so much on the [TV] screen, and grew up admiring him' - Sreesanth © AFP

Away from the field where his behaviour can be decidedly eccentric, Sreesanth exudes a certain calm. After a potentially match-winning spell of 5 for 40 on Saturday, he spoke to the media about how a chat with Allan Donald in the morning had helped him to produce the sort of spell that most young quick bowlers fantasise about.

"This is like a dream come true," he said, "but I have many more dreams to attain. We are well set, we have a very good lead and should be able to win from here." He did qualify that by saying that the match wasn't over yet, but the confidence which has percolated through the ranks was unmistakable.

According to him, the chat with Donald had definitely played a part. "I really admire him," said Sreesanth. "Even though Dennis Lillee is my idol, I want to be like Donald. The talk definitely helped me understand what needs to be done here."

The prospect of talking to one of the game's all-time greats would once have been an intimidating one, but after a promising start to his international career, Sreesanth is no longer a wallflower. "In the beginning, I used to be very shy," he admitted. "Now, I have no fears about walking up to former greats and taking their advice."

He also admitted that the pitch had played its part in his success. "It's a very good wicket to bowl on," he said. "It was particularly nice to take [Jacques] Kallis' wicket because I've watched him so much on the [TV] screen, and grew up admiring him."

He started wonderfully well, with the wickets of Graeme Smith and Hashim Amla, but some loose deliveries before and after lunch set the alarm bells ringing. "I wasn't really bowling well after my first three wickets," he said. "I was spraying down the leg-side, mainly because I was trying too hard.

"In the lunch break, the coach and captain spoke to me and simply asked me to calm down. They wanted me to be patient and just stick to the right line and length. That helped me tremendously and I could come and finish it off."

The mood in the dressing room, visibly alleviated by the last-wicket partnership between VRV Singh and Sourav Ganguly, also played its part. "We have remained positive throughout," said Sreesanth. "We had faith in ourselves and in our hard work. We also decided not to think of the past; we just focused on the future."

Right now, that future appears to be as bright as the Kerala sun at the height of summer.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo