Why have his own people never liked Sreesanth?
Across the world people love sports stars for a multitude of reasons - their ability to do that extra 30 or 40 % on the basis of God given talent and hard work, their larger than life personalities and lifestyles, their ability to hold the collective euphoria or despair of an entire nation in their hands etc. The swish of the net as Kobe Bryant sinks in a clutch shot with seconds on the board, the ball rapidly making its way into the crowd as Chris Gayle hits yet another towering six and a 40+ year old Randy Couture taking down Gabriel Gonzaga yet again as he defied the odds and Father Time and marched toward a seemingly impossible UFC title victory are but a few examples of how sports stars become heroes for so many of us caught up in our drab day to day existence and who live for those fleeting moments of ecstasy. And yet somehow despite everything falling into place at the right place and the right time, in a cricket mad country, Indian cricketer Sreesanth was never a hero to his own people.
The Sreesanth script could've been perfect. He comes from a state – Kerala, which has hardly ever had its players in the national cricket team. There were always rumors that talented Malayalees (for those who don’t know - people from Kerala speak Malayalam and are known as Malayalees or Keralites) never got called up because they didn’t have godfathers in the selection board and almost all cricket fans acknowledge this to be true. But all this changed when Sreesanth burst on the cricket scene a few years ago. Here was a reasonably good fast bowler (how good he was has perpetually been a matter of debate) who ended up playing 27 test matches (with 87 wickets), 53 ODIs (75 wickets) and a handful of Twenty20 matches. He was flamboyant at times in his celebrations and on occasion seemed to bring a feisty flavor to our traditional pace bowling.
So why wasn’t he the darling of the masses? To me, it’s because his flashes of brilliance were often overshadowed by his inability to back up all his venom with actual match winning performances. As a nation, we have respected and admired the workhorse bowlers, the ones that did their job minus the pizazz. The ones that replied to aggression by the opposition through their bowling and not through words. And Sreesanth just wasn’t what we were used to. He didn’t represent what Indian bowling was all about. Remember Venkatesh Prasad’s response to Pakistan batsman Aamir Sohail’s infamous pointing the bat to the boundary incident? One of Indian cricket’s great moments that.
But controversy followed him with the infamous Slap-gate scandal (a fellow senior bowler Harbhajan Singh apparently slapped him on the cricket field, some fans believe that the one slap wasnt enough ...) and like many other cricketers thrust into the spotlight he too tried his hand in showbiz. Again this wasn’t what Keralites were used to. All the glitz and glamour somehow alienated him from what should’ve been a loyal fan following. To all of us sitting in our living rooms it appeared as though this brash Johnny come lately was more fire breathing posturer than wicket taker and that the fame and fortune had gone to his head (yes, we are a judgmental lot). And so Sreesanth was excluded from the respect that we showed the Sachin Tendulkars and the Anil Kumbles and the Rahul Dravids of the cricketing world.
And now its all come tumbling down. Along with two of his club teammates, Sreesanth has been arrested for spot fixing (working with bookies to fix certain spots in matches in exchange for extremely large sums of money) yesterday. In a society with true justice, people are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty. But looking at social media and newspaper reports, it seems as though the nation has played its role as the judge and jury and declared him guilty immediately. All we await is the ruling of the cricket board that plays the executioner here (assuming he is guilty of course). Other cricketers might have got the benefit of the doubt. But with Sreesanth, the axe has been quick to fall when it comes to the normal man's verdict.
The following image has been doing the rounds since yesterday. What I have said in 700 odd words, the Joker seems to have said in 17. And people wonder why we Malayalees don’t like Sreesanth....