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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 October 2007, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Sreesanth: The perils of aggression
Rohit Brijnath
By Rohit Brijnath

Sreesanth appealing against Andrew Symonds
"There is a fine line between colourful and immature"

Shanthakumaran Sreesanth is single-handedly doing what many did not think possible. He is handing the Australian cricketers the moral high ground. Adam Gilchrist, one of cricket's finer fellows, implied on Tuesday that the Indian's behaviour is more childish than his son's.

It is becoming increasingly hard to disagree.

Last week, Andrew Symonds grumbled that India had got carried away with its Twenty20 celebrations (it did, but in a land unused to cricketing victory it was understandable, and Symonds was plainly ungracious), but it was his further assertion that the Australian cricketers were humble in victory that sparked annoyance and amusement.

Sreesanth must remember, too, what first earned him selection for India: a talent for bowling, not an ability to be theatrical

There was something of the ridiculous to an Australian cricketer attempting to hand out lessons in humility and decorum to an Indian.

Yet on Tuesday, so egregious was Sreesanth's behaviour (again), so bizarre his run-out of Symonds, so infantile his screaming in Symonds' face after dismissing him, that the Indians are in no position to lecture on etiquette either. Sreesanth may be a talented bowler but he is doing an ungainly break dance on cricket's spirit.

Admirable dignity

Sreesanth can be amusing at times, and no doubt sport needs free spirits who have a hint of the unconventional. But there is a fine line between colourful and immature, between aggression and silliness, and he appears not to know the difference. So Mahendra Singh Dhoni must tell him, for one player cannot be allowed to bruise a team's reputation.

The Indian team through the years has conducted itself with an admirable dignity at most times. Still, it has been argued in recent times that the team needed to be more aggressive in its tone, and its players more confrontational in their attitude.

An animated Sourav Ganguly goaded his team to believe it could win, but his players were not encouraged to be rude. In 2001, at home against Australia, India were tough and uncompromising but hardly obnoxious. It was a team whose most aggressive cricketers were also its quietest and most honourable: Laxman, Tendulkar and Dravid.

Admittedly not every man is a Tendulkar. All manner of personalities collide in sport and cricket has sufficient room for men to be themselves and for steam to occasionally escape. Thus glares are exchanged, the odd word thrown, intimidating fields set, bouncers hurled. It is a game within a game, a testing of nerve that the Australians enjoy most.

When Australian teams cross the line, and they have done so frequently in the past, the response from India has been scathing. To not apply the same standard to Sreesanth would be disingenuous.

'Muscular India'

Dhoni's so-called "new India" is seen as a muscular, dynamic India, and acceptably a young generation should be allowed to express itself. So high-five after wickets, run up to pat a bowler, display your exuberance, show off an energy that unnerves an opposition, advertise spirit through shoulders that refuse to slump, don't take a backward step in the face of intimidation.

But toughness (or "fearlessness" as this team is supposed to have) is not screaming in another man's face or pointing a bat. If this is the strategy to rattle Australia, it is feeble.

India are not going to beat, or impress, or scare Australia by behaving in an aggressive manner but by playing in an aggressive manner. Not by tough talk, but by putting six balls in the right place; not taking a step towards the opposition, but by taking singles constantly; not by a shoulder bump, but by fielding sharply.

The most fearsome and intimidating opponent is the focused, disciplined, consistent one. The most aggressive teams are the ones that do not allow the pressure to ease, who play every session with fierce concentration.

Harbhajan can point his bat all day, but it's his wicket-taking that matters. Australia's mind games worked only because their cricket was uncompromisingly tough. Australia dominated because they out-skilled, and out-worked, and out-thought opponents, not because they out-talked them.

The more Sreesanth visits the match referee, the more he becomes an issue in the media, the more it distracts the captain and team from its mission. He is young, and so people will be indulgent. But patience leaks away. Especially if he has figures of 3-67. If he feels the need to swagger, he must earn it. He must remember, too, what first earned him selection for India: a talent for bowling, not an ability to be theatrical.

This debate is closed. What follows is a selection of comments received.

I completely agree with this article. I feel that Indian cricketers especially Sreesanth needs to know how to behave while playing this prestigious game. Dhoni is a wonderful captain but he definitely needs to let his team members know that such reaction can only hurt the teams name not bring in a victory.
Anupa Issac, India

Rohit you are absolutely right. I feel that Sreesanth should be disciplined as he has lost the plot.
Dr C B Binodh, UK

If Sreesanth wants to do act in this manner, and that helps him get wickets, as an Indian i don't care.
Diresh, Finland

I think you should stop blabbering and enjoy some good cricket mate!
Anupam Desai, New Zealand

Sreesanth is not irreplacable and should be dropped if his attitude doesn't change. Above all the ethics of the game must be maintained at all costs and nobody is more important than the game of cricket.
Indiana, US

Drop him from the team when he behaves like this.
Avinash Kumar, India

I totally disagree. Sledging has been made acceptable by the Aussies and we all tend to follow their benchmark. We don't have to sledge the way they do. Sreesanth's aggression is his own style of saying 'bring'em on'. If Gilly thinks Sree is more childish than his son, I am sure Sree none the less manages to annoy him and that's the purpose of gamesmanship. Proud of Sree!
Prashant, India

Sreesanth is doing the right thing! The author of this article is coming from an era, when most of the matches were lost by the Indian team. The young and dynamic Indian team now is capable of winning matches and it doesn't matter how they achieve it.
Bharat, India

He is just a kid, Don't be hard on him.
Ajit, India

He has a long way to go to prove himself as a good bowler. He has to be patient to achieve it. What he is doing right now is not acceptable in a sporting spirit.
Sheeja Jose, Dubai

I think the selectors should drop Sreesanth for a few matches for poor behaviour. That will make him learn to improve his conduct on the field.
Anil Hanagud, India

Your article raised few good points. But it seems that when Mervyn Hughes, Mike Whitney, Craig McDermott, Shane Warne etc were involved in similar theatrics on field, they were not given the same media coverage and scrutiny. When an Indian cricketer does something similar he is criticised. I am all for Sreesanth- he shows passion not stupidity and getting under the skin of Australian batsmen. He showed similar behaviour in the semis final of Twenty 20 World Cup against the Aussies and his bowling figure was outstanding.
Kumar Lang, Australia

This really bothers me. You have one Indian guy being aggressive and the whole world is against him. Do you think Ponting would have publicly criticised Warne over his behaviour? Never. He might have a quiet word with in private or even in presence of other team mates and that will be that. Never in the media.
Srinivasan Ramiah, India

I believe this article is over rated analysis of Sreesanath's aggressive behaviour! This article does not speak about reason behind his aggression. I believe he is settling the scores from the opposite team on the field, traditionally Indian team always been considered soft when it comes to aggression (except maybe Ganguly). I'm happy to see Sreesanth does not leave the cricket field without a payback. Sreesanth does not go against every player in the world booing; I feel he is just playing a very tough cricket and glad to see him not getting intimidated by some macho players from the opposite teams like South Africa, Australia, Pakistan or England. Nice to see an Indian with aggression with serious talent, Keep it up Sreesanth!
Prakash, USA

Wonderful article. I am Australian and found Symonds' comments laughable. Regarding Sreesanth, I wonder why on the many occasions that Shane Warne humiliated himself, not once did i hear it suggested that he 'bruised a team's reputation'. However, when an Asian player - or ex-player (Gavaskar recently)- says or does something that upsets the hyper-sensitive Australian psyche, the entire sub-continent is branded dishonourable and uncivilised. I am not accusing M. Brijnath of anti-Asian sentiment, but he does - perhaps unwittingly - highlight it in others.
Ben Winter, Australia

Stop giving lectures. Young India is dynamic. We know what we are doing and we take responsibility for our acts.
Harish, China

"There was something of the ridiculous to an Australian cricketer attempting to hand out lessons in humility and decorum to an Indian." Every time Indians starting pontificating about how courteous and humble they are, I remember the comments, both far past and recently, of that revered Indian cricketer Sunil Gavaskar, about how the West Indian team were just out of the jungle and that the Australians players might end up like David Hookes if they are not careful. Perhaps that's what Harbarjan Singh had in mind when he waved his bat at the Australians the other day when he got out? I don't think Gavaskar is a complete one-off in Indian cricket in his attitude, either. Australians may be rude and crude sometimes, but don't bother coming the high horse about Indians, thank you. Sreesanth is talented, high-spirited and spoilt. In the Australian team he wouldn't be indulged, he'd be dropped. Only Warne ever got way with that sort of display, and by then he had a couple of hundred wickets to back it up with.
Steve, Australia

Thanks goodness. Rohit has finally justified his pay check from the beeb. Good one mate. Very apt. Sree is a brilliant prospect and the game needs characters like him but more importantly India needs his talent not to wither away. Fighting fire with fire is all right if you can back it up with your performance.
Akhilesh, UK

Sreesanth is a good player. He should improve his behaviour in the same way like the game. Winning the game is great, but winning the heart of everybody is great.
Ram Kumar Chaudhary, Nepal

I also think the Indian supporters are also immature they only cheer when the team win when they loose they will attack players and burn their houses. That has effected young players like Sreesanath to be so aggressive.
Sulakshani, Sri Lanka

Sreesanth is good, he brings talking points to the game, this is what cricket needs!!!
David Burrows, England

Cricket has transformed to a game of aggressiveness, power, and hardball strategies and it is no more a gentleman's game.
Jossi John, Dubai, UAE

A team without discipline is as good as a losing team. No matter how much talent is stored.
Jaydip Dasgupta, UK

Aggression can be acceptable in the game, but not to display direct verbal abusive remakrs or physical action to an individual.
Paresh Shah, India

I think Sreesanth is a breath of fresh air for Indian cricket. Gone are the days of being 'contented losers'. The Indian team need that element of aggression. However I do think he needs to 'channel' his energy through his bowling and as fast as possible. Let that do the talking. Let the selectors not drop him on these grounds.
Aneep Sanjiva, Leicester, UK

The article by Rohit Brijnath is spot on I feel. Talent, value and importance to the team will be valued by Sreesanth's figures and wicket taking. His agressive attitude seems to overshadow his bowling right now and his figures are good, but not exceptional. He needs to cut out the comedy element of his act (because that's what everyone thinks of him at the moment) and concentrate on becoming a big name for his wickets. India need someone like him, but if he continues to act like a kid then he will loose a lot of respect for the team and himself.
Jatender S Heer, UK

It's not just cricketers who get carried away. Cricket columnists like Brijnath need to calm down too. The prose here is excessively dramatic and as over the top as young Sreesanth himself.
Ravi, India

Get it right people: It's not Sreesanth's aggression any one is finding fault with. It's his silliness. Like the excessive appeal for which he was penalised during T20. Sreesanth got it absolutely wrong, and his behaviour seemed all the more ridiculous. Those who condone this behaviour are looking for a bit of football on the cricket pitch. Cricket is better off without such players and their admirers.
Imran Mir, Pakistan

I think Sree is a decent bowler with good agressive instincts. Now he needs to fine tune his instincts so that he doesn't step over the line of what is acceptable behaviour. At the start of his career, Glenn McGrath was hotheaded and tended to let his anger distract him, resulting in his bowling getting wilder & wilder. Later he learned when how to control his temper and his bowling became world-class, although he still sledged with the best of them. Sree needs to do the same. If he does then the world's his oyster.
Greg, England

I think the Australians have been much more childish than Gilchrist claims Sreesanth is. They even went to the extent of giving a push to Mr Sharad Pawar, the president of the BCCI. If my knowledge is correct, then they also were indifferent towards none other than Don Bradman on one occasion. So even after considering the fact that Sreesanth needs to concentrate on developing his bowling talent rather than overreacting on the field, I disagree with this article considering you can only survive with an eye for an eye attitude.
Mandar Joshi, India

After a long time I have gone through a sensible article. I agree with the author regarding the points he mentioned here about the fine line between a childish behavior and aggression in the field. As per my understanding of the Aussie cricketers, the only way to disrupt them mentally is to beat them again and again. Each time they sledge, just BEAT them and BEAT them badly. When Ponting says that Sreesanth will do good on their turf only if he "lasts", he is obviously trying to make Sree mentally sick. These are the things Sree has to understand: The "game" of the opponents and react ONLY BY SENDING "punters" back to the pavilion and not by unnecessary useless sledging. These acts are childish indeed whether Indians or Ozzies do. My response to any sledging would have been a flying kiss to the sledger!! Thats the reason I still like Sachin as a person. He has got the ability to reply by acting smart not by words.
Ralph, Australia

It's all gamesmanship and theatrics. If it adds color to the game and no one is physically hurt then I am all for it. In a commercialised world, it's good for the sponsors and the viewership. I for one like to see Shoaib Akhtar in action despite all the bad rap he has, which makes the contention between ball and bat less routine and mundane and more colorful. It's not Sreesanth but his critic, especially fellow indians who need to calm down, as he is not portraying you or the game, but just himself as he is. Please leave Sreesanth alone.
Atul, USA

I totally agree with Andrew Symonds statements that India got carried away with their win. People might say that i being a Paksitani (considering the history we have had with India and the fact that we lost to India) i would say that, but if you look at the past, you will realise how often Indians do that. If in any series, any Indian player performs well, he is labelled a god. Look at Munaf Pater, Parthiv Patel (who are not in the team anymore), Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan and Harbijan Singh, who find it difficult to make it to the first team on an automatic basis. They are good players, but they are not Tendulkar, Dravid etc but are portrayed like that.
Saad Qureshi, Pakistan

Thank you for the first sensible article on this issue. Unfortunately, though, Dhoni is equally to blame, for allowing Sreesanth as well as Harbhajan to behave in this disgraceful manner. There is nothing 'fearless' about a big defeat, nothing 'tough' about getting hit to the boundary and getting out at regular intervals! All I can say is 'Wake up Dhoni and the manager! Get your troops in line! Otherwise you are heading for 6-0!! And deservedly so!!'
Jayant, UK

I totally agree with Rohit Brijnath. I would be really pleased if Indian team gets to read this article. Sreesanth is a young boy with lots of aggression and energy, he wants attention and wants to prove himself. If you remember the India vs. England test matches in England tour of India, James Anderson was in fact more aggressive than Sreesanth. I don't remember if there was much of talk about Anderson in the media. I agree that Sreesanth is loosing a bit, there is no doubt about that, but it's kind of interesting! Indian cricket was never so aggressive in the past, it does bring a lot of energy and creates pressure onto the opposition, but there should be a limit to it.
Vinod Dhawale, UK, London

When Australia does it - it is "mind game"!! They deserve everything that others dish out to them. Sreesanth was not being stupid or boorish - he was animated and responding to comments by Australian players, especially Symonds. Dignified Sachin is a spent force - it is embarrassing to see him show up in ODIs and get out without disturbing the scorers too much. Go Sreesanth, keep it up.

An extremely succinct and well-written analysis. If this is how we feel, you can imagine how gentleman-cricketers like Dravid and Tendulkar must be feeling...I am sure they must be feeling utterly embarrassed that they have to share the same field as Sreesanth. If Dhoni, as the captain does not have the wherewithal to warn Sreesanth, the BCCI should step in and say enough is enough, and suspend Sreesanth for a match or two. In fact, punishment for this kind of boorish behaviour should be outlined clearly in every player's contract, and implemented without fail.
Chandra Sekhar, India

His behaviour is not only harming him, it is also affecting the country's stature in the eyes of others.
Hindupur Rajagopalan, Canada

Sreesanth's aggressiveness on field overshadows his bowling talent. I believe if he concentrates on his bowling than his aggressive follow up he could be a better player.
Vinod Prabaharan, USA

Please leave these young generation youngsters free and let them learn through the hard way. They are the ones who have shown what grit and determination is by winning the Twenty20. Leave them alone and they will show what toughness is and if they cannot we can at least say that they tried.
Sreekath J, India

Stop complaining! How many articles have you written about Aussie sledging in the last several years, Rohit?
Raja Gopalan, USA

Sreesanth is a wicket taker and a winner. I like his aggression and if it upsets Andrew Symonds - good. We should not forget that it was Sreesanth who took the catch that won the 20/20. He is also Dhoni's 'go to guy' when wickets are needed. I believe his success is directly linked to his 'in your face' attitude. When India played England, the team was exposed to ludicrous sledging - 'I drive a Porsche, what do you drive! - but showed great fire to win and win well in the Test series. Don't knock a winning team. India needs Sreesanth - break dancing and all. Victory in this series and the World Cup can be forgotten; India will be challenging to be the best team in the world.
John Harrison, Orpington, England

I just don't understand why it bothers people when Indian cricketers show their aggression. Sreesanth's attitude is a welcome change to the times when not so long ago Indian batsmen used to cringe at the bouncers ad beamers hurled at them from the West Indians and Thomson, Lee from Australia, and the bullying from John Snow and Bob Willis. They did not have the bowlers then to give as good as they got, including Kapil Dev. Perhaps Mr. Brijnath is more comfortable with the docile Indian cricketers (losers) who were always polite and well mannered and clapped at the opposition hitting them all over the park. Well, he needs to get a reality check. If Sreesanth was an Australian, nobody would write anything about him. Mr. Brijnath, we live in a different world now, now and India is a different country. India needs more aggressive sportsmen/women like Sreesanth, Yuvraj, Dhoni and Sania Mirza. Remember Vijay Amritraj? A talented tennis player who never won anything because he had ! no killer instinct. Mr. Brijnath, get a life and stop writing these boring columns. It is writers like you who need to change.
Harj Ghuman, USA

India needs to be brash if it wants to become a better nation. There is no room for number 2.
K Bhati, USA

Completely disagree. Showing aggression is different then performance. After taking wickets, there is no harm exchanging few words with dominant team. That's what Warne and McGrath had been doing for decades. Sree is still in early days, give him freedom of expression. But within limits. Aussie comments on this is no real surprise. After all no body like to be beaten by India.
Rahul Sharma, UK

Aussies get away with a lot of stuff because they are good players as well
Shiv, UK

I think Sree is an amazingly talented bowler. I saw a lot of him in the test series in South Africa this year. He is accurate, quick and has an amazing seam position when he bowls which is why he always generates movement with the new ball. I also feel that he seems to get carried away a lot and loses his cool. He is quite a character and it's great to watch from a spectator's point of view but I would rather see him take wickets than scream at opposition batsmen! He can become even better if he learns to keep his cool.
Videsh Ramdeen, South Africa

Well, agreed that Sreeshant has not be behaving his best. Agreed that India celebrated for too long. There are couple of points though which I observed in the Kochi match - when a batsman is playing well against Australia, at least three to five fielders move towards him unnecessarily when he is with in the crease. This treatment was given to Robin Uthappa far to frequently to ignore. Why was this not commented upon? I believe the attitude of 'no fear' is perfect for the team and the nation, but the theatrical outburst which we saw from Shreesanth definitely needs to be curtailed by the captain and the team. I believe once we play good cricket, then aggression needs to be shown to keep the advantage. And it is that area the Indian team needs to work at.
Dr Sunil A M, India



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