There's a rush to hang Sreesanth for his role in the IPL spot-fixing. He is, perhaps permanently, pariah for bringing disrepute to cricket, embarrassing senior citizen Rahul Dravid, leading younger cricketers the wrong way, cheating and criminal conspiracy.
If the tonality of TV sound byte soldiers were an indication, cricket appeared to be in mourning – suddenly its beloved IPL is not to be trusted.
But in the clamour to lynch Sreesanth, fellow Indians may be overlooking a host of reasons to applaud the once-upon-a-time cricketer from cricket star-starved Kerala.
This is not fair.
There are plenty of reasons why we need to be grateful to Sreesanth for. When we calm down and the froth has trickled off our lips, we might still raise a toast for an unputdownable man.
Here are my top 12 reasons to sing for Sreesanth. He:
1. Gave us a juicy story
Until Sreesanth happened, the big story was Chris Gayle. The number of sixes he hit, the 175, his dancing (although horrible), his calm, blah blah. Gayle is old T20 hat. He is expected to fire in the shortest format.
In T20 cricket, Gayle is as new a story as, say, Manmohan Singh's reluctance to act in politics. Suddenly, Sreesanth changed it all. Now, the IPL has a milestone forever. It will henceforth be watched with the same dubiousness that we reserve for Bollywood.
Newsrooms sprang to life too. The fake tension of the points table was just not working. Everyone knew who had made it. Sreesanth, however, blindsided them. Cricket journalists finally have their Indian Cronje.
2. Proved there's life still in Dawood Ibrahim
Even the Indian government had stopped worrying about Dawood Ibrahim. No one seemed to care if he was getting a Botox fix, meeting people in the new Pakistan government, getting a new address and a new look or merely drowning in regret.
Sreesanth the reliable had a trick up his sleeve though. Now we know that Dawood is well and alive. His instincts are working; he is back to his first love – cricket. This is how we last saw Dawood, in shades and guffawing after another bet in India-Pakistan matches at Sharjah.
All is well with Dawood and even the Delhi Police is happy. "The mastermind is overseas," said a mighty pleased Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
3. Helped us understand why small cricketers command big wealth
Why would educated young men from small towns want to slave it away for years on end without a hope of playing cricket for India? Why would they not look for other careers – for which they may have studied?
If it weren't for Sreesanth, we might have misinterpreted things forever. The IPL is big bucks – and you don't even have to bowl correct. It's all in the extras and rubbish deliveries.
Every long hop, wide or no ball could be worth a fortune. All the silly coaches who asked them not to bowl rubbish didn't know a thing. Fire away, dude, the next car is only a six away.
4. Made us fond of Delhi Police (briefly)
There are many things you can't do in India. You can't walk with your girlfriend or wife at night, you can't find an honest pizza and you can't like the police. Especially the Delhi Police.
Now, after Sreesanth's star turn, we gape. Is this the same Delhi Police that can't get anything right if it involved a woman? In the Sreesanth case, the police cracked it wide open in a matter of weeks.
They were offering full details just a day after the last IPL game was spot-fixed on 15 May. Wow. "We have hundreds of hours of audio recordings," said Neeraj Kumar ominously.
He can go home a hero. Tonight.
5. Enriched the aam aadmi
The outrage is all about the bookies making a killing on Sreesanth and his two partners in crime (all three knew what the other was doing, said Neeraj Kumar). Sreesanth, in particular, did unnecessary exercises after signalling he was ready so the bookies would have time to place and take bets.
Hang on. The people who place bets are the ordinary Indians in every town. The corporate titans have no need to bet on cricket. It's largely the people who otherwise might have staked money on shares.
You'd be surprised at who benefited from Sreesanth's antics. It's the proverbial aam aadmi. Thousands of them, probably lakhs, have made big money because Sreesanth turned rogue.
You won't see many aam aadmi tears on this.
6. Kept cops and bookies on their toes
As Neeraj Kumar ruefully shared, his men were forced to keep an eye on every nano second of IPL matches. Even the cheerleaders had their free time but not the cops. "We had to be at the grounds because the signals could've been sent during the commercial breaks," said Kumar.
The only others forced to stare at everything on the field are the bookies. They too couldn't take a chance. In one simple trick, Sreesanth had cops and crooks doing overtime. Genius.
There's another good here. Sitting in the stands in India, exposed to the weather, is punishment. The policemen suffered too, much to the glee of those of us who hate them.
7. Knocked the wind off the smug BCCI
Some days ago, IPL commissioner Rajiv Shukla virtually said the IPL was just a season or two away from displacing the English Football Premier League as the most watched annual competition on earth.
It seemed that the BCCI was bathing in milk and swimming in cream. It took Sreesanth to wake the BCCI up. The BCCI is capable of shrugging anything off but Sreesanth might prove clingy.
At least now the BCCI honchos have been forced to use words like 'sad' and 'shocked' – feelings we thought they were incapable of.
8. Made the IPL a viable career option
It's not yet IIT or IIM but the IPL is well on its way. For the denizens fretting about lack of career choices apart from business management, engineering, medicine or civil services, here comes the IPL – guaranteed to build a bank balance. More so if you didn't know how to bowl.
Let's say Sreesanth and his faithful didn't happen. What might (Ajit) Chandila or (Ankeet) Chavan do? What might many like them do? Remember, Chavan took the most wickets for Mumbai in the previous Ranji Trophy.
Sreesanth has it nailed. Come to the IPL. Be one of us. We're scheming all night. Never sleeping. I wouldn't be surprised if more wanted to play in the IPL.
There's more at the door. There's more.
9. Confirmed that IT is solid gold
Ever since Infosys came about, it's been rumoured that IT is the future and that India might even be good at it. Now, we know. The Delhi Police says it has been monitoring the suspects for a month. There is video and audio surveillance, apart from the long hours on foot.
What do they do with the hours of footage? Hand it to the IT guys. You could see that even in the Delhi Police presser. For probably the first time in its history, the Delhi Police held a presser with laptops, video screens, recorded video footage – and a cop who knew what to do with it all.
Without IT, none of this may have occurred. Thanks, Sreesanth, for saving the IT hordes.
10. Gladdened hearts in Pakistan
We are two nations with one soul, after all. We sneered when Salman Butt and his cohorts landed in British prison for spot-fixing. We ain't like that. Right.
With minimum fuss, Sreesanth has applied balm on Pakistani hearts. Shahid Afridi, who thought Indian hearts were too small, may have to check his yardstick again.
If the advisors of Nawaz Sharif have any sense, they would be hammering out an invitation to Sreesanth to visit Pakistan. After all, the man from Kerala may have more CBM aces up his, well, sleeve.
11. Elevated the humble towel
It is the towel's job to mop up dirt, on the body mainly but anywhere else too. If you were a towel, you'd want to hide. Until now.
Who knew the towel had espionage value. Hungry bookies, waiting to collect the crores, had nothing but a small towel to bank on. In Sreesanth's pockets, the towel acquired lethal properties.
In it went and the phone lines started to buzz. The batsman merely had to swing the bat and the runs flowed. Imagine – runs, bets, crores, phone bills, trust among thieves, all went up with the towel.
12. Scared the heck out of the Aussies
You could sense the panic in the voice of the correspondent from Australia who asked Neeraj Kumar if Shaun Tait was caught with money. Kumar the jovial said 'your countrymen have nothing to fear' after pointedly asking her if she was Australian.
It seemed that word had reached the Aussies about black sheep in their midst. "Can you rule out Australian cricketers from the spot-fixing in the IPL," the Aussie correspondent persisted. "Yes," snapped Kumar.
But there it was. What Harbhajan couldn't do, Sreesanth had. Frighten the Aussies.
For all this, we owe Sreesanth. Maybe we could dance to his tune. Or name a dance after him.
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