Bowled over by each other's expertise, T. Kumaran and S. Sreesanth recall some of their best moments on the field
Thirunavukkarasu Kumaran has always playfully mocked Shanthakumaran Sreesanth. The younger cricketer does not take offence at such jibes because he looks up to Kenny bhai (as he fondly calls Kumaran) as a consummate fast bowler and has, by his own admission, benefited from his bowling tips. As an employee of MRF, Kumaran's expertise is available to the Pace Foundation and Sreesanth is its product. When the two paired up for a Take Two, Prince Frederick realised that behind the seemingly big-brotherly attitude, Kumaran has respect for Sreesanth's bowling skills, even a touch of admiration for the way he bowls the inswinging yorker. Kumaran: You always try to be the centre of attention. Sreesanth: (Laughs) Kenny bhai, any assertion has to be supported by evidence... Kumaran: Evidence? Huh, I have plenty of it. Once, you broke into a jig just to draw attention and on another occasion, you came to the nets with a bandaged arm for a bit of sympathy. Sreesanth: I don't remember doing either of the two. Kumaran: You were too aggressive for someone who had just started out... Even at the nets, you would be cut to the quick when the batsman put you away. It could be taken for sure the next ball would be a bouncer. Sreesanth: I was aggressive because I was trying hard to make an impression. As you know, it was highly competitive. Out of 20, only two got selected. At that time, I was just 18 and wasn't very tall at all. Through a bouncer, I was telling the batsman not to underestimate me.Kumaran: You used to tell us you were so short the balls would not reach the batsmen... I can't believe it!Sreesanth: That was before I joined the MRF Pace Foundation. During the India-South Africa ODI at Kochi in 2000, I was one of the lucky few to bowl at the nets. I was just four feet eight inches tall and bowling leg-spinners to Sachin Tendulkar. After three balls, Sachin held up his hand and asked me to stop because the balls barely reached him. Kumaran: Do you remember Ajit Agarkar was furious with you because you were pestering us for autographs and a photograph. I shielded you from his anger. Sreesanth: (Laughs) Yes. I could understand Ajit bhai's outburst. He was the next batsman to go in. The photo (which has Kumaran and Ajit, all padded up and waiting in the pavilion) is one of my prized possessions. Kumaran: Now, you share the cricket ball with Ajit... Hey, you seemed to have added one more weapon to your arsenal. Now you are bowling the outswinger as well as the inswinging yorker, which has been your deadly weapon. Didn't you get a hat-trick off three inswinging yorkers in the match against Indian Bank? Sreesanth: Yes. (Laughs) I think I am bowling outswingers because I have been visualising myself bowling outswingers for a while. I have always admired your ability to swing the ball both ways. Although the inswinger is your stock-in-trade delivery, I have noticed you bowl the outswinger and the leg-cutter at will. (The two take a break from the Take Two and talk shop - reverse swing, leg-cutters, outswingers and the works. All the while, Kumaran is the teacher and Sreesanth the all-attentive student). Kumaran: Hey, where is my one million? Sreesanth: (Turns to the MetroPlus team and explains) At the Pace Foundation, this is a catchphrase. Whenever you have benefited from someone's advice or he has predicted something good for you and it comes to pass, you are supposed to give him one million dollars.Kumaran: (Trying to shed some light on the origin of the phrase) This phrase began to circulate around the Foundation after sports psychologist Srikanth shared with us how Andre Agassi paid an international trainer $1 million for a one-line tip: "Keep your spine straight." Reportedly, Agassi's game improved by leaps and bounds when he followed this advice. Sreesanth: Kenny bhai, I have not forgotten my indebtedness. We were in Hyderabad to play in the Moin-ud-Dowla Tournament and we were discussing cricket in the evening. Out of the blue, you said you would play for the country in one month. Your prediction came true - exactly! Don't worry, you will get your fee when I can afford it... Kenny bhai, I would really enjoy playing for the country along with you... Kumaran: Back, ankle and hamstring injuries kept me out of the game. Now, all these are behind me and I have got my rhythm back. I am focussing a lot more on fitness - later this month, I will be leaving for Australia to attend a course offered by the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association. I am 30 and some people have told me I should give coaching serious thought. I tell such people that I am confident of making a comeback.