Shortly after the Kerala High Court ordered India’s cricket board to lift a lifetime ban on Shanthakumaran Sreesanth on Monday, the fast bowler was back to doing what he does best – making outrageous statements to the media.
Sreesanth told The Times of India he was targeting a spot in the national side in time for the 2019 World Cup.
“I know it is next to impossible and it would be a miracle if I play in that World Cup,” he was quoted as saying, “but I have always believed that miracles can happen.”
Indeed, Sreesanth has often gone out of his way to publicly display his faith in the divine. Shortly before India’s trip to the West Indies in 2006, he ventured into the team hotel sporting a shaved head. His explanation to this writer was: “I just got back from Tirupati [a Hindu pilgrimage site in southern India].
"Pray for me cheta [brother] so that I do well," he added.
Sreesanth did quite well for himself in the five or so years since that meeting. But more than anything else, it was his talent – armed with a languid run-up and smooth action – that earned him his success. He swung the ball at good pace, an asset to the Indian team struggling to find good seamers at the time.
His 169 international wickets belied his natural abilities which were for all to see during a brilliant spell against England in the 2006 Mumbai Test. And who can forget the way he bounced, and dismissed, the leading South African batsman Jacques Kallis at Durban in 2010?
Sreesanth in his pomp
Unfortunately the enormous self-confidence which helped him take a heap of wickets, turned out to be a double-edged sword that cut his career short.
Reports of fall-outs with several cricketers, not least the then captain MS Dhoni, contributed to him being unwanted in the dressing room.
One theory for why he was slapped by Harbhajan Singh, a former teammate and fellow hothead, in 2008 was the spinner had had enough of Sreesanth’s boisterousness.
Although he played a part in India's 2011 World Cup victory, stories of his alleged waywardness off the pitch followed years of wilderness from the national side. A comeback bid in 2013 was then foiled when he was pressed with spot-fixing charges by the Delhi police during the Indian Premier League season.
Four years later, Sreesanth is not only cleared of those charges but has an unlikely chance to salvage his career. But one has to wonder, at 34, how likely it will be for him to wear an India cap again.
Sreesanth certainly working on his fitness
His attempt at comparing his situation with that of Pakistan's rehabilitated fast bowler, Mohammed Amir, is borne out of fantasy. Amir was 17 when he was banned and still took more than six years to return to his best – at the Champions Trophy this year.
With India well stocked in the fast bowling department, it will be quite some feat for him play for his country, let alone in a World Cup.
Amir's performance in Champions Trophy final