No prizes for guessing who everyone was looking for at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium on Saturday. Not surprisingly, the object of their interest was nowhere to be seen.
Had Sreesanth gone into a hiding after pouring his heart out on Twitter a day earlier? Or did the Rajasthan Royals keep their temperamental pacer away from practice to avoid any unwanted distraction on the eve of their game against Kings XI Punjab?
Even as the curious and imaginative minds began considering various possibilities for the no show, twitter provided the answer. It turned out that the temperamental pacer had gone to Shirdi to seek divine blessings.
"He's on his way back and will join the practice a little late with the second group," said the team manager. And it wasn't long before Sreesanth trudged into the nets, with headphones on and a smile on his face. Trying to look as carefree as possible in the wake of the little storm he had kicked up, he went through whatever was left of the session with little fuss.
The team too appeared to have made their peace with the player and have apparently thrown their weight behind him. "Sreesanth is a lovely guy, warm and friendly. I don't know how he has got this image of being a difficult person. That's just not him," said his Rajasthan Royals team mate, Owais Shah, the English batsman. "As you have pointed out that Paddy Upton (Royals coach) is a fantastic man manager, he will manage him well. But as far as I am concerned, things are absolutely fine with him."
Firmly supporting the temperamental speedster, the Englishman wouldn't even concede that the team and the bowler himself might be a little distracted following the controversy. "Look, the issue has been dealt with. And given the professional Sreesanth is, I am sure he would be at his best for Sunday's game," he said.
What remains to be seen though is whether the speedster would find a place in the playing XI on Sunday? That's doubtful not just because of his mental state but also due to his below par performance in the last game. Shah, however, would have none of it. "He's one of our best bowlers, he's in fact one of India's best bowlers. I don't see any reason why he won't be there tomorrow."
And if Kings XI Punjab sense an opportunity in this little crisis in the Royals camp, their coach, Darren Lehman, didn't show it. "Well, Sreesanth is a good bowler. They are a good team who play really well at home. We will need to play well to beat them."
Looking to snap their three-game long losing streak, Kings XI would surely be pleased to see their opponents in some disarray.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.