as in Rasheed Wallace, the NBA power forward. After helping his team, the
Detroit Pistons, win the championship in 2003, Wallace was asked what he would
say to President George W. Bush when visiting the White House to be
congratulated. Wallace responded, "I don't have (shit) to say to him. I
didn't vote for him. It's just something we have to do."
I always wished cricket had a few more guys like 'Sheed. Hotheaded talents who shoot their mouths, speak the truth, don't care about consequences, but are still too gifted for any team to risk antagonising or dropping. Next to guys like Wallace and Allen Iverson, even headcases like Andre Nel and Sreesanth are made to look like little castrato choir boys. In cricket, everything runs according to script, and those who flub their lines are immediately disciplined. The extremes we get are either irrelevant grey-beards, like Bishan Bedi, devoting their lives to self-justifying libel campaigns; or goofy foot-in-the-mouth types, like Dean Jones, inadvertently unleashing Id droppings right in the middle of the commentary box.
That's why, I am hereby starting a new feature, the 'Sheed Award, given out to any cricketer who manages to provide us with something more than the corporate stooge platitudes and weightless jocko catchphrases that we're sadly grown accustomed to from interviews and press conference, and instead gives us something true and meaningful and honest. The inaugural winner of the Award should not be too hard to guess: it's Marvan Atapattu, after last week's "muppets" comment regarding the Sri Lankan selectors. As you can imagine, I was ecstatic after hearing about Atapattu's outburst.
First of all, because it came out of nowhere. It happened in the middle of a Test, for no particular reason, following no specific provocation. Second, because the accusations he was making were most probably true. The Sri Lankan selectors have always been rather conservative and inert, and they have definitely made a few strange choices recently. (I'm not sure how much they influenced the decision not to include Lasith Malinga in the eleven for the first Test, but it was an astoundingly poor choice either way. No matter what his form may be, you don't take out Mr. 4-in-4-with-Valderrama-streaks for a medium-pacer. You just don't.)
Thirdly, and most importantly, because of who it came from. I always pictured Marvan Atapattu as a calm, docile man; humble; reserved. He seemed like a hard worker; like a family man. With a kind wife. And a pair of girls. And a dog. His old pictures suggest this, as well as portraying him as somewhat of a worrier; an introspective thinker, overcoming inner doubt through discipline and diligence.
Now, he's looking like a bad-ass. A total character re-invention. Take a look at the photo below.
Doesn't he seem like some kind of intense mind-over-matter guru, with a low pulse and an eagle-stare? An expert in four different kinds of martial arts (one of those still illegal in most countries), sleeping on bamboo mats and eating raw egg milkshakes for breakfast? I hope he gets a massive double-hundred in the next Test (it would be his seventh), and I hope the muppets are forced to keep him in the team against their wills, and I hope he keeps the new persona up so I can keep handing him more of these Awards.
if the photo wasn't enough proof of his cred, how about the fact that his middle name is Samson?)