|Full name Shanthakumaran
Born February 6, 1983, Kothamangalam, Kerala
Current age 23 years 18 days
Major teams India, Kerala, Kerala Under-19s
Also known as Gopu
Batting style Right-hand bat
Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium
For three seasons, S Sreesanth
was hardly anything more than an answer to a trivia question - who is the
only Kerala bowler to have taken a Ranji Trophy hat-trick ? His rise, though,
was rapid, and since he played for a weak side, unnoticed. Not too many
bowlers get selected for the Duleep Trophy in their first season, like
Sreesanth did in 2002-03 after snapping up 22 wickets in his first seven
games. His progress was halted owing to a hamstring injury in the following
year, but he returned stronger, with a more side-on action and increased
pace and a superb display in the Challenger Trophy, in 2005, propelled
him to the national squad for the Sri Lanka series.
When India's new-found left-arm pace attack let it all slip after a rollicking start in the third Test against Pakistan at Karachi, the fans were crying out for variety. Sreesanth, always in the reckoning for the one-dayers following an impressive start against Sri Lanka last year, broke the monotony, rolling his right arm and bagging six wickets in the series, four of which were snared in a Karachi pitch which looked as dead as the 'dead rubber' encounter. His pace, coupled with his studious demeanour may be far from frightening. Neither is his gentle delivery stride. What is rather disconcerting for the batsman, however, is his ability to swing the ball late and generate sudden movement off the pitch. The frequent dropped catches by his colleagues at Multan notwithstanding, at Karachi Sreesanth had announced his arrival.
He represents the new breed of Indian cricketers who hail from far-flung regions, which in the past have been given the cold shoulder as far as talent-spotting is concerned. Incidentally, Kerala, his homestate, is revered for its sporting culture and has produced several Olympian athletes but has sadly had a dearth of international-quality cricketers. Sreesanth was to change all that. Early on, he took to legspin, modelling his action on Anil Kumble. However, his pace and penchant for slipping the frequent yorker compelled him to take up fast bowling, encouraged by his elder brother. When his predecessor from Kerala, Tinu Yohanan earned a selection to the National Cricket Academy in 2000, Sreesanth worked harder at his craft, making it to the MRF Pace foundation in Chennai. Success followed almost immediately, making his first-class debut in the 2002-03 domestic season, bagging 22 wickets in just seven matches and meriting a selection in the Duleep Trophy squad in the same season.
In October 2003, he had a chance to impress the selectors in a tour match against the visiting New Zealand side at Rajkot. However, he was laid low by a hamstring pull which saw him bowl just 12 overs, taking one wicket. There was speculation as to why he missed five Ranji Trophy games that season, despite travelling and training with the side. The grapevine had it that an astrologer convinced him to take a break for the sake of his longevity in the game. However, Sreesanth flatly denied this claim, stating that he was training just to regain fitness.
He entered the record books the following season, taking a hat-trick against Himachal Pradesh, the first such feat by a Kerala bowler. Back home, he was nicknamed `The Prince of hat-tricks.' National recognition didn't follow till the Challenger Trophy in 2005, when he played for India B. To start with, his name drew more attention than his skills. There was confusion whether to address him as Sreesanth or S Santh, as shown in scorecards (He later insisted on being called by his first name, ie Sreesanth). But, with an entire nation desperately wishing Sachin Tendulkar to rediscover his touch after a long layoff, here, ironically, was Sreesanth's great opportunity to become a giant-killer. The ball jagged in, trapping Tendulkar right in front, and the minute the finger went up, he had acquired his passport to national colours. Timeline
November 2002 - Ranji Trophy
debut against Goa
What he says
"For a start, I never expected to get the new ball. I didn't think I'd even play. Then for Rahul bhai (Dravid) to ask me to open the bowling with Irfan (Pathan) was incredible. Since I've got a large percentage of my wickets with yorkers, my friends suggested I start with one. I almost got Salman Butt in the first match at Peshawar."
What they say
Javagal Srinath, after the third ODI at Multan
"What impressed me most was his attitude. For someone who was ill and down the previous day, he played the game with verve. It's an irony in cricket that often when a player is coming out of a niggling injury or a brief illness, he puts up a performance which is above expectations."
"To me, the find of the series for India has undoubtedly been Sreesanth and irrespective of what happens, this lad has the ability to go a long way and serve his country with merit and distinction."
What you may not know
Sreesanth is an accomplished
dancer and was once a national break-dance champion while in the eighth
grade. His favourite entertainer is....well Michael Jackson. His folks
back home wouldn't have been surprised to see him shake a leg after taking
a wicket in Karachi. In an interview to reporters he said, "People recognise
me. When I was on stage, I used to do all silly things to be in the limelight.
I love dancing."
Sreesanth's talents and ability
were recognised in other sports as well, namely, football, table tennis
and hockey. Though hailing from the south, Sreesanth speaks Hindi with
a distinct North Indian twang. Hindi aside, he also speaks Malayalam, English
and Tamil. He is also a student of psychology and an avid reader.
Known for his guts and spontaneity, once as a student, Sreesanth couldn't resist the urge to meet Sachin Tendulkar. Stopped by a security guard, he managed to bluff his way in, saying that Tendulkar had paid for his scholarship. Little did he know that few years later, he would grab Sachin's wicket to earn national selection.
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