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It's been a great week for fast bowlers making a comeback to Test cricket. After a high-quality display from Mohammad Asif and Shane Bond in Dunedin, it was the turn of Sreesanth, playing his first Test in 18 months, to slice through Sri Lanka in Kanpur and put India on course for a 1-0 series lead.
Sreesanth's inclusion in the Test squad had raised eyebrows, and he himself had doubted whether he would return after an injury-filled year. "To be honest, I never thought I will play for the country again," he said, after picking up his second test five-wicket haul. "But God has been very kind and I got the opportunity at the right time."
All the talk until Thursday morning had been about the flatness of the Green Park track, but Sreesanth inspired India to take 13 wickets in the day to leave Sri Lanka trailing by 356 runs with six second-innings wickets remaining. "It was a slow track and I had to work hard. Hitting the stumps was more important. I told myself that I might go for runs but I will make them play every ball."
Sreesanth finished with 5 for 75, including the prize scalp of Kumar Sangakkara, but he said the wicket of tailender Rangana Herath gave him the most satisfaction. After taking four wickets, Sreesanth had Herath feeling for the ball outside off stump for several overs before finally bowling him. "It was testing my patience. I was getting irritated at not getting the fifth wicket," he said. "In domestic cricket also, I get impatient for that fifth wicket. But I told myself if I can beat him once, I can beat him 10 times also."
It was a stunning return to Test cricket for a bowler who has been making more headlines in the recent past for disciplinary controversies than his bowling. Just last month, the BCCI gave Sreesanth a final warning, telling him that any further violation of the Code of Conduct would lead to him being banned from domestic cricket. "I think I have been misunderstood a lot of times, not just once or twice," Sreesanth said. "I said in Ahmedabad also that I must be one of the most misunderstood cricketers in the world.
He said he wasn't using his second shot at Test cricket to answer his doubters. "I was not proving a point. I was enjoying more and was playing to my expectations. I have become realistic now and set goals which I can achieve.
"Yes, I was desperate to get the new ball in hand. It's always a proud moment to play for the country and it was great to open the bowling with Zaheer bhai."