Sreesanth: From Angry Bird To A Rotten Egg?

The spot-fixing controversy has left people from Sreesanth’s home state fuming, who they say, has discredited Kerala and his fans


Till Thursday morning, 30-year-old Sreesanth was an icon who inspired young cricketers in his home state of Kerala. Considered an angry bird with a killing instinct, people waited outside his house to catch a glimpse of him, heroines danced with him and even senior bureaucrats and politicians hosted him. But today, he is being berated as a rotten egg.

Though he has pleaded innocence and blamed his friend-turned-bookie, Jiju Janardanan; the explanation does not have too many takers. Many believe he was treading on the wrong path for a long time and is now paying for it.

“Ever since allegations of match-fixing surfaced in the IPL last year, the police and media have been monitoring the developments very closely.  He is a fool who took everything for granted. Why did he walk into the trap? He has discredited Kerala and his fans. We have lost face before the nation,” says TC Mathew, General Secretary, Kerala Cricket Association (KCA).

PTI Photo

For the KCA, the match-fixing controversy in which Sreesanth has figured as a key player, was a bolt from the blue. “Two other young Kerala players are in the Rajasthan Royals team. I was scared when the news of his arrest was flashed on the channels. But thankfully they are not involved,” says Mathew. He adds that KCA is planning to ban players from participating in the Cricket League matches in Dubai. “That is the place where bookies make first contact with budding players. We want to save our players,” says Mathew.

While the KCA is fumbling to figure out how to respond to the arrests, Kerala is fuming at the cricketer for his misdeeds. His effigies were burnt and a few people shouted slogans in front of his house in Kochi. “He ditched all of us for a few bucks,” says Abid Usman, a 19 year-old young cricketer. Like him, many are turning their face away from their old hero.

In Kochi, some of the real-estate brokers are jittery as the investigations may derail their business plans. “Sreesanth’s mother was active in the real estate business in Kochi,” revealed one prominent broker who did not want to be identified. Sree’s family was one of the new line investors who gambled in the booming real- estate market in Kochi, they say.

“Born in a lower middle-class family, his celebrity status helped his family to dine and dance with the people who matter in Kochi,” says one of his old neighbours. “After Sree started playing for India, their lifestyle had changed. The instant publicity and celebrity status ruined them,” says another neighbour.

The arrest and match-fixing scandal has hit Sree at a crucial time in his life. “He was about to complete the construction of his house in September and planning to get married. I was told that he was engaged to a rich girl,” says an old class mate.

Many of his friends attribute his fall due to his craze for luxury. Sree has always been a troublemaker and emotionally unsteady throughout his life. His success as a cricketer never made him mature. According to the Kochi social circles, he could not cope with the instant celebrity status he was thrust into. “His partying spirit and dancing with celebrities led to his fall. He was a misguided guy throughout his life. Now he is paying for it,” said a fellow cricketer who studied with him in Choice school Kochi.

But there are a few people who still regard him as a spirited sportsman who dedicated his life for playing cricket. “Now he may be a fallen icon, but I knew him as a boy who had a passion for cricket. In fact he showed our youngsters that they could have a future in Indian cricket,” says a fellow player who has played with him.

Sreesanth’s career in first-class cricket started in 2002 against Goa, where he claimed 22 wickets in seven matches in the Ranji trophy and was selected for the South Zone in the Duleep Trophy. Later he was selected for India in a match against the visiting New Zealand where he claimed one wicket in 12 overs but got injured. He returned to the Ranji Trophy in 2004 and achieved a hat trick against Himachal Pradesh. He also gave a spectacular performance in the Challenger Trophy tournament and won the Man of the Series award by taking seven wickets with the third best bowling average. But since then, he was erratic in his performance.

“He was not happy with his career. He was aware that his performance was going down. This may have forced him to try and make the last big haul of money from cricket,” said another cricket official who did not want to be named.

Meanwhile, his family is pleading his innocence and has requested everyone to come forward to support him. “Please pray for him. He is not a cheat. We need your prayers and support,” Dipu Shanthan, his elder brother said. Dipu, who met Sreesanth in police custody, said that his brother told him that it was Jiju Janardhanan who might have colluded with the bookies and taken the money. But for now, the investigations continue to be focused on Sreesanth as the prime accused and many find his defence to be feeble.

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