Former Indian pacer S Sreesanth’s bid to resume his career appears to be gathering momentum as a two-year impasse in his ongoing battle with the BCCI ended with the filing of a petition in the Kerala High Court requesting that his lifetime ban from cricket be overturned.
Despite a Delhi court dismissing all criminal charges, the punishment imposed on the bowler after the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal has remained; but the 34-year-old is hopeful that his civil action will be successful and allow him to pursue his hopes of a comeback in Scottish league cricket with Glenrothes CC.
“The court has given the BCCI fourteen days to respond [before it passes] an order lifting the ban,” he told me from his home in Kochi.
“That is what it is looking like but we have to be patient to wait for those days to pass and we have to see how the BCCI reacts.
“The greatest thing that could happen is me getting to play and the worst is that maybe they won’t lift the ban and give me a NOC [No Objection Certificate] to play in Scotland.
“But I will surely fight to have it uplifted because it is very important.”
It was Sreesanth’s announcement of an unsanctioned comeback which finally broke the silence emanating from the governing body since the imposition of the ban. His stated intention to play in a league match for Kerala CC on February 19th resulted in a copy of the 2013 banning order being sent to the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA), giving Sreesanth and his team the specific information they had waited for to instigate the civil case. A tactical masterstroke?
“That was the lawyers!” he said.“What I spoke was the truth, I had never [seen that] letter [before].
“Because I said I was going to play [this] good thing happened. They postponed the game and you can imagine what pressure that must have put on the BCCI and the KCA.”
That it took so long to reach this point, however, clearly rankles.
“It is very shocking,”said Sreesanth. “In fact, shocking might be an understatement because the things that me and my family, the cricket fans, all the people from Kerala across the globe went through over the last four years you cannot get back.
“Even after the court ruling the BCCI hardly responded to my messages. They have not acknowledged my emails. That is not a way to perform in any office.”
“When I was accused they suspended me. That’s fine, that is the rule, ninety days of suspension and I agree with that. So I waited while the case was going on and for almost two years I was quiet. I always believed in the court and I never wanted to make a comment. I was keeping faith in the Almighty and in justice and in the hope that it would happen, and then on July 25th 2015 it did [when criminal charges were dismissed in Delhi].
“But that same evening [BCCI Secretary] Mr Anurag Thakur was in a hurry to announce to the public and to the media that the ban still stood.
“I have always been thankful and very grateful to the BCCI, the KCA and Kerala Cricket Club for giving me the opportunities that they did to represent my club, then the state, zone, juniors and country, to win a couple of World Cups and be a part of the number one Test side [in the process]. I never wanted to take the BCCI to court.
“[But] with the new reformed BCCI under Vinod Rai I am very confident that with him being very close to the laws of the country and with the BCCI taking their reforms very seriously the court order will be respected and I will be given the chance to play again.”
“The past is past,” he said.“I will not forget but I have forgiven everybody.”
And so, if all falls into place, to the Eastern Premier League in Scotland. What may seem at first glance an extraordinary move is, says Sreesanth, down to his love of the game and desire to express his gratitude to Edward Gibbs, Glenrothes CC’s Director of Communications.
“Eddie has been more than a brother to me, more than family,” said Sreesanth. “He has been supporting me throughout.
“I met him during a match when I was playing for a World XI in England. He asked me if I would like to play for his club once I retired and I said why not, I love cricket and I would love to come to Scotland one day.
“I never wanted to go like this but I am a cricket fan, I love to play cricket everywhere and I love to watch and experience it, and with Scotland being a developing cricket country I would love to share whatever humble experience I have learned from the greats like Tendulkar and Kumble and all the other legends.”
“Cricket comes first,” he said. “I love my country and I love my state but if you ask any cricketer he will say that he is a cricketer first then everything else after. I want to make sure that cricket grows in every part of the world.
“It is also a great opportunity for me to explore. In Scotland it swings a lot and I am a swing bowler and can bowl fast too and I want to explore what I can do.
“[I would also like to] do some batting as well and come back to the Indian team as one of the best all-rounders hopefully. These days you have to bat well otherwise you will be out of the team so I would use the Scotland experience to play as many matches as possible and hopefully make a good comeback into world cricket.
“I will always be grateful to Scotland,” he concluded. “I cannot thank people enough for the amount of support I am getting from there. God has been kind.”
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