Unfortunately, more than his skill-set, it was the Indian speedster’s run-in with controversies that garnered more attention in cricketing circles.
Be it the slapgate incident involving Harbhajan Singh in the 2008 IPL or shoving his shoulder into England captain Michael Vaughan or his histrionics against Aussie Andrew Symonds, the maverick Kerala pacer ensured that he was more a friend of the match referees than fellow-cricketers and fans.
Today is a difficult day for me, but it is also a day of reflection and gratitude. Playing for Ecc, Ernakulam distr… https://t.co/TlcWdTVT8X
— Sreesanth (@sreesanth36) 1646833606000
ICC has been a tremendous honor. During my 25 years career as a Cricket player, I’ve always pursued success and win… https://t.co/RJAvRBRXia
— Sreesanth (@sreesanth36) 1646833645000
And in 2013, Sreesanth’s cricketing career hit its nadir, when he was implicated in the IPL spot-fixing scandal. He was not only handed a life ban by the BCCI, but was also arrested by the Delhi police and spent 27 days in Tihar jail before receiving bail. The pacer however maintained his innocence and said that he was falsely implicated in the case and even feared for his life.
The cricket maidans, which were close to his heart, became a no-go zone for the Indian paceman. During the period, he acted in films, participated in reality shows, and even dabbled in politics — contesting unsuccessfully on a BJP ticket for the Kerala Assembly elections in 2016. But maintaining that cricket was his first love, he fought a legal battle to ensure his return to the game.
In March 2019, the Supreme Court set aside the life ban imposed on Sreesanth and asked the BCCI to reconsider the quantum of punishment. Five months later, the BCCI reduced the ban on Sreesanth to just seven years which meant that the former Indian pacer made a comeback to the cricket field in September 2020.
It has been an honor to represent my family, my teammates and the people of India. Nd everyone who loves the game .… https://t.co/d0vLxiljhf
— Sreesanth (@sreesanth36) 1646833723000
For the next generation of cricketers..I have chosen to end my first class cricket career. This decision is mine a… https://t.co/KC1X5gARRm
— Sreesanth (@sreesanth36) 1646833887000
At the age of 37, the seamer made a successful return to competitive cricket by representing Kerala in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament and Vijay Hazare trophy last season.
With Ranji Trophy returning to the domestic calendar this year after a Covid-induced break, Sreesanth wore the white flannel one last time against Meghalaya last month and picked up two wickets before deciding to bring curtains on a two-decade-long roller-coaster cricketing career.
After the ban, Sreesanth could no longer make a comeback to the Indian team and the last time Sreesanth represented India in international cricket was during India’s tour to England in 2011. But there is no denying that the Kerala pacer was a part of several important moments in Indian cricketing history. He is only the second Keralite to represent India in international cricket after Tinu Yohannan.
While the Kallis bouncer at Durban and the jig to celebrate his six off pacer Andre Nel at Johannesburg would have grabbed more eyeballs during India’s tour to South Africa in 2006, it was Sreesanth’s match haul of 8/109, including a five-wicket haul in the first innings, at the Wanderers that helped Rahul Dravid’s side clinch India’s first-ever Test win on South African soil. Sreesanth was also part of India’s two World Cup wins — the famous catch he took to dismiss Pakistan’s Misbah-ul Haq off Joginder Sharma that culminated in MS Dhoni lifting the inaugural World T20 trophy in 2008, and the 2011 ODI World Cup win at the Wankhede.
Sreesanth finishes with 87 Test wickets, 75 ODI scalps and seven T20I wickets. But given the talent he was, Sreesanth could have achieved a lot more.
Born: February 6, 1983
Bowling Right-arm fast-medium
Teams: India, Kerala, Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals, Kochi Tuskers Kerala. Warwickshire
Bowling average: 37.59
Best bowling: 5/40
Bowling average: 33.44
Best bowling: 6/55
Bowling average: 41.14
Best bowling: 2/12
Bowling average: 35.92
Best bowling: 5/40