The bad boys of Indian cricket landed in trouble once again, this time after a clash on the field. Except this time, there were no international players involved. Instead it was Mathew Hayden’s “obnoxious weed” Bhajji going against the equally troublesome Sreesanth. As a cricket fan who has watched both these players in action, I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps both these players had it coming. They had both been in trouble before and had done little to curb their natural street fighter instincts. Without reigning in these young turks who prided themselves as symbolizing the “new aggressive” India, the BCCI is finally faced with an embarrassing and difficult situation (the ICC rules can result in a life ban for assaulting another player). By moving fast and slapping (pun intended!) a ban on Bhajji and warning Sreesanth, the BCCI has made the right moves.
Bhajji’s Big Loss
Rumor has it that Bhajji had warned Sreesanth prior to the game not to “sledge” his players and he acted on his threat, post-match by slappping his Test team mate. Sreesanth who was seen crying like a school kid later denied “the slap” along with some ridiculous made for TV statements that have become customary of him, while Bhajji for his part tried his best to downplay the incident, and understandably so.
Bhajji has just been banned for 11 games. He has lost a bunch of money. In fact, it is probably the most expensive slap in recent history. Dhoni showed that his sympathies lie at least partially with Bhajji when he said, “However, before issuing any punishment, I hope the authorities check the actual sequence of events rather than just what the footage shows. It’s a lot like what happened between Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi. What Zidane did was wrong, but Materazzi also was not completely in the right.”
Sreesanth in Greater Trouble
The long term implications for these players might be costly, particularly for Sreesanth. The IPL has shown that there is no shortage for fast bowling talent in India – Gony, Praveen Kumar, Vinay Kumar, Dhaval Kulkarni, to name a few are all as good if not better than Sreesanth in T20. Bhajji on the other hand is still the leading off-spinner in the country. With Kumble ‘s retirement round the corner and Romesh Powar hopelessly out of shape, Bhajji’s cricketing prospects seem very strong until a new off-spinner rises to recognition. With Dhoni learning towards Bhajji and Kumble showing his preference to bowl in tandem with Bhajji in Tests, the future for Sreesanth could be in more in doubt. Bhajji might have paid a big price in the short term, but in the long term he surely appears be on stronger ground.
Despite Dhoni’s best attempts to state that this incident will not affect the Indian team dressing room, chances are that one of these players will have to go. And my money is on Sreesanth being phased out unless his performance can speak for itself. Lately though, his dance steps and immature comments to the media are more visible than his on the field performances, which have been fairly ordinary to say the least.