Sreesanth halts a roller-coaster cricket ride

S Sreesanth
S Sreesanth is pumped up after dismissing South African captain Graeme Smith in the 2010 Durban Test. File photo: AFP/Alexander Joe

Kerala pacer S Sreesanth has called it a day marking the end of a roller-coaster ride. The mercurial player from Kochi was the second Keralite after Tinu Yohannan to play for India. He was part of the Indian team which won the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa in 2007 and also a member of the Indian squad, which regained the ODI World Cup on home soil after a gap of 28 years in 2011. 

The Board of Control for Cricket in India slapped a life ban on him for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scam while representing Rajasthan Royals. 

Though it was later reduced to a seven-year suspension, Sreesanth's international career was well and truly over.

Though he battled on and the Kerala Cricket Association welcomed him back, he was well past his prime. 

Sreesanth made a comeback to the domestic circuit last year when he played in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy National T20 Championship and Vijay Hazare Trophy One-Day Competition. 

This season Sreesanth skipped both the tournaments and made a return to the Ranji Tropy after nine years. 

A poor show against Meghalaya in his comeback match last month coupled with excellent bowling performances by the other pacers -- Basil Thampi, Manu Krishnan and debutant Edhen Apple Tom -- meant Sreesanth was overlooked for the next games against Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh. 

It would have played a big role in Sreesanth calling it quits at 39.

Sreesanth was just magnificent in the 2006 Johannesburg Test. File photo: AFP/Alexander Joe

After becoming the first Kerala bowler to pick up a hat-trick in Ranji Trophy in 2004, a fine display in the 2005 Challenger Trophy quickened his entry to the Indian team for the home ODI series against Sri Lanka. Sreesanth made his Test debut against England at Nagpur in March, 2006.

He played a big role in India winning a Test series in the West Indies after 35 years when Rahul Dravid's men triumphed in the fourth and final Test at Kingston in 2006. He had a match haul of 5/72 and his victims included Chris Gayle (in both innings), Brian Lara, Daren Ganga and Ramnaresh Sarwan. 

Sreesanth was just magnificent when India won their maiden Test in South Africa later that year. 

His spell of 5/40 helped India bundle out the Proteas for 84 in their first innings at the Wanderers. Sreesanth followed it up with 3/59 in the second innings.

He was also part of the team under Dravid which won a Test series in England in 2007. Then came the first-ever ICC T20 World Cup in South Africa. Sreesanth was simply sensational in the high-scoring semifinal against Australia at Durban. He gave away just 12 runs from his four overs and picked up the prized wickets of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.

When on song, Sreesanth was a treat to watch. His seam position was excellent and he could produce unplayable balls like the one which he dished out to Jacques Kallis in the 2010 Durban Test. He was also part of some of India's greatest triumphs and memorable moments - like the catch to dismiss Misbah-ul-Haq to signal the end of a pulsating final in the T20 World Cup or being at the non-striker's end when Anil Kumble scored his lone Test century at the Oval in 2007.

Harbhajan Singh & Sreesanth
Sreesanth was slapped by Harbhajan Singh in the inaugural IPL in 2008. File photo: AFP

For all his talent, Sreesanth was also a tough bowler to handle even for a captain like M S Dhoni. There is no doubt that he would have enjoyed greater success if he was nurtured. Sreesanth's antics on the field and the Slapgate incident involving him and Harbhajan Singh in the inaugural IPL in 2008 did not help his cause.

An injury to Praveen Kumar meant he was included in the Indian team for the 2011 World Cup. He featured in the opening match against Bangladesh in Dhaka and in the final against Sri Lanka in Mumbai. The final turned about to be his last ODI, while the Test series against England later that year was to be his final international outing.

Then came the spot-fixing scandal, a foray into TV shows and movies, and even a brief political stint followed by a comeback to the game  -- life had indeed come full circle for Sreesanth. He will always be remembered as someone who put Kerala cricket on the map. But it is with a tinge of sadness that Indian cricket fans will remember him. Adios, Sree!

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