Thiruvananthapuram: After seven years of betting/fixing-related life ban from all forms of cricket, returning to competitive cricket, Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, the 37-year-old pacer stepped out to play for Kerala on Monday and bagged a solitary wicket against Puducherry in an Elite E match of the T20 Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in Mumbai at the floodlight Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.
Puducherry won the toss and opted to bat. After conceding 9 runs in his first over, the 37-year-old came back storming in his second over, picking up the wicket of Fabid Ahmed. Sreesanth took his fans down memory lane as he managed to move the ball away from the right-hander after pitching. The ball clipped the top of off and Sreesanth was in delight.Sreesanth bagged one wicket for 29 runs in four overs at an economy rate of 7.25 as the Sanju Samson-led Kerala beat Puducherry by six wickets with 10 balls to spare. He was unable to control his emotions as he looked up to the sky before celebrating the wicket with his teammates, reports India Today
"God is great. My faith in god has given me this opportunity to comeback for the Kerala team," Sree Sant reacted to IANS.
"I am physically fitter than I was in 2011 when we won the World Cup. I am expecting to perform well and the team has both experienced hands like Robin Uthappa, Jalaj Saxena, Sachin Baby, captain Sanju Samson, as well as young players like KM Asif," he added over telephone from Mumbai.
Interestingly, Sree Santh's former Ranji Trophy teammate, Tinu Yohannan, who has also represented India, is head coach of the Kerala team.
Sreesanth had returned to training after his ban ended in 2020 and videos of him troubling some of the Kerala players were going viral. The start of the domestic season was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy got underway only earlier this month. The delay proved to be a blessing in disguise for Sreesanth who managed to impress the selectors and find a spot in the Kerala squad.
There were doubts over whether Sreesanth would feature in the playing XI on Monday against Puducherry but the Sanju Samson-led side gave him an opportunity and the veteran pacer made full use of it.
The fast bowler was a regular in the Indian team and was part of the team that won the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 50-over World Cup in 2011 at the Wankhede Stadium, where he returned to competitive cricket on Monday.
Sreesanth was added to the Kerala squad in December after the pacer had an impressive pre-season campaign. He was handed a life ban in 2013 by the BCCI for his alleged role in IPL spot-fixing scandal.
Sreesanth was acquitted of all charges in 2015 by a special court after which the Kerala High Court quashed his life ban in 2018. However, a division bench of the High Court restored the ban after which Sreesanth approached the Supreme Court. While the apex court upheld his guilt, it recommended the BCCI to reduce the punishment term. In August 2019, BCCI ombudsman DK Jain reduced the life ban to 7 years.
(With inputs from agencies)