S Sreesanth’s hostile spell against Australia in the semifinal of the first ever T20 World Cup remains one of the best spells bowled to Australia by an Indian bowler across formats. Sreesanth bowled splendidly to Australia, who were chasing 189 to win. In a T20 match, let alone a crunch game such as a semifinal, Sreesanth bowled four overs, one of which was a maiden, gave away just 12 runs and picked up two crucial wickets – of Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden.
13 years on, Sreesanth reveals what spurred him to bowl his heart out in that match in Johannesburg. The fast bowler, who cleaned up both openers, revealed it were the bitter memories of the 2003 World Cup final and a line said to him by captain MS Dhoni which got him pumped.
“Dhoni bhai motivated me. He said you keep showing your aggression here and there; now do it against Australia,” Sreesanth said on YouTube channel Cow Corner Chronicles with Chandresh. “I think it worked like a key mechanism for me because I got fired up at the right time. The first ball, Hayden hit me for a boundary because I tried a yorker. That was the plan because I had seen Shoaib Akhtar get him out to the same ball.
“My whole plan was to run in with intension because I wanted Australia to be defeated. With the way Australia defeated India in the 2003 World Cup, it was always there in my head. I wanted to kill them literally, that’s why when you see when I perform against Australia, I am somewhere else.”
The final of the 2003 World Cup final remains a forgettable memory for Indian cricket fans. Ricky Ponting’s bullish 140 led Australia’s charge and they finished with a mammoth 359/2. India could never get going in the chase and were bowled out for 234 with Virender Sehwag top-scoring with 82. As it turned out, Sreesanth had taken quite the exception to it.
“In the final, no body scored except Viru bhai and there was so much spoken about the result that because of it, I always used to be extremely angry towards the Australians. I am so proud and God has been extremely kind that one match everybody talks about is that match. The best I have bowled for my country is that match. I had bowled a lot of dot balls. I remember I had gone for two fours and overall went for just 12 runs,” he said.
Australia were to be without Ponting for the big knockout as the skipper was ruled out due to a hamstring injury, meaning Gilchrist was to lead the team. Sreesanth revealed how a call from a known individual on the eve of the match got him even more fired up.
“I always liked getting the captain out. So ahead of the semifinal against Australia, Dinesh bhai (Sreesanth’s coach) called me and asked me ‘who do you want to dismiss tomorrow?’ I said Ricky Ponting. He told me Ponting may not play because he has some sort of injury, so he will straightaway prepare for the final’. I said, ‘what final… how will they play the final? Are were here to just eat mangoes,’” Sreesanth said.
“He went on saying it happened in the 2003 final as well. You’ve done really well. Don’t worry too much; they are a brilliant team. That what pumped me up even further to get Gilchrist’s wicket early.”