by TS Sudhir | 06:34 PM August 07, 2017

Sreesanth needs justice from BCCI, how long will he be no-balled?

Sreesanth needs justice, how long will he be no-balled?

Nearly 20 years ago, I was at the Gymkhana cricket grounds in Hyderabad, watching a match. Also standing on the sidelines was an average cricketer-turned-selector for the junior Hyderabad team for South Zone. 

One of the batsmen who was close to getting his century got run out, and he walked back to the pavilion, feeling dejected at having attempted a non-existent run. 

In that despondent mood of his, he missed noticing this important man. The moment the batsman walked past him, he sarcastically said, "You will not even say good morning to me, and you expect me to pick you for the South Zone team.''

Sreesanth's story reminded me of this incident. The BCCI is like this selector which despite two court orders, would keep Sreesanth out of Indian cricket because it feels he has not been a good boy. 

The BCCI slapped a life ban on him in 2013 after he and two other players were accused of spot fixing during the IPL. The Kochi Express, as Sreesanth was fondly called by his fans, derailed and was sent crashing into Tihar jail. 

The player who was part of the India team that won two World Cup campaigns in 2007 and 2011, spent time with criminals of all hues. 

Redemption came in the form of a 2015 verdict when the court acquitted him on grounds of insufficient evidence. But the BCCI was not moved and the cricketer continued to be in exile. Monday's verdict of the Kerala High court lifting the life ban would provide him with some much-needed cheer.

But would the BCCI, on the wrong side of many a Supreme court observation and judgement, even care given that its ego is larger than the outfield at Eden Gardens? 

Unlikely. It would certainly go in appeal to the apex court, almost as if to indicate that in its book, Sreesanth remains a cheat. 

What do the last four years then say about the BCCI, our criminal jurisprudence system and civil society in general? Was it guilty of declaring Sreesanth guilty even before any court had judged him? Did India see his eccentric and bad behaviour on the cricketing pitch and automatically assume that is the way he is in real life as well - a spoilt brat who would not mind dropping a match for money?

What does it say about those big claims made on television by Delhi police officers who probed the scandal and bragged endlessly about having incriminating evidence? What does it say about the BCCI that continued with the ban even after the trial court verdict? And what does it say about the Kerala cricket association officials who were quick to distance themselves from the boy they groomed, saying Sreesanth is not an idol for budding cricketers. 

Not that the verdict of the court is going to resurrect Sreesanth's cricketing career. At 34, Sreesanth is pretty much beyond the expiry date for a speedster in the modern era. All that he needs now is to turn the clock back and get his name cleared.

But Sreesanth would make a fascinating subject for a PhD thesis. On what a cricketer, or a sportsperson in general, should not be, in order to ensure he does not attract negative attention. 

During the days when he was wearing India colours, Sreesanth was known to be controversy's favourite child. Temperamental on the field, given to sledging, not holding his emotions back, colourful. So much so that even his captain MS Dhoni admitted it was quite difficult to control Sreesanth. 

This during a series in South Africa when the speedster was accused of crossing the line during a verbal spat with rival captain Graeme Smith by "bringing in family and personal things''.

In fact, even before he got into the Indian team, Sreesanth was in the news as much for his bowling as much for his run-ins with umpires, fellow and rival players. He had the cheek to sledge Sachin Tendulkar during a Challenger Trophy match in 2005. So much for his reputation of being a `God'-fearing person!

Which is why when he was accused of doing a wrong there were few by his side. His domestic cricket record was replete with issues of indiscipline. In 2010, when Sreesanth was removed as Kerala Ranji team captain, he threatened to play for another state. 

When he finally patched up with the Kerala Cricket Association, he sledged Tamil Nadu's Dinesh Karthik and was suspended for two matches. 

Sreesanth came across as a persona who swings between extremes. During the times when he was on a high, it seemed he could not handle his success and surrounded himself with people of questionable character. When he was axed from the team, a more sober Sreesanth reportedly wrote "I will change'' and "I will behave well" in his diary. 

In the last couple of years, Sreesanth has tried to ensure he does not fade away from public memory, first by contesting the Kerala elections on a BJP ticket from Thiruvananthapuram (which he lost) and acting in a Malayalam movie 'Team 5'. But for a person who remains the most talented cricketer from Kerala to have played for India, he deserves justice, not petty spite.  

Only this morning, Sreesanth had tweeted pictures of his daughter tying a rakhi to his toddler son. The cricketer would like to believe that there is some invisible thread that has protected him as well. From a life of infamy forever.

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