Interestingly, this post comes exactly a year after I’d written ‘An open letter to whomsoever it may concern with cricket.’ I am still a cricket fan. I still like the IPL. But sadly, very sadly, nothing much seems to have changed. Déjà vu! Read on…
A couple of years back, I remember watching a Malayalam movie which had a character named Sreenath, who was a flamboyant Indian cricketer. Although he is not central to the movie, a sub-plot to the movie is about the betting and match-fixing scandals. In the movie, a ‘clean’ Sreenath helps the cops in investigating and busting the syndicate of thugs that run the business. The actor, although not a look-alike, played a character that closely resembled a certain Santhakumaran Sreesanth. Two years can be a really long time in life, let alone in a small world of cricket.
Malayalees always shared a love-hate relationship with Sreesanth. They loved him because he was the first real Mallu to make it big in the international cricketing circuit (Abey Kuruvilla, Tinu Yohannan and Sunil Valson came and went, largely unnoticed). They hated him because of his antics. One can just glance through some public forums to see the amount of venom spewed on him, some of them funny, some downright ugly. But then, Mallus, by nature, are not known for their politeness.
I wasn’t his biggest fan, but I didn’t hate him either. The ‘Santh’ (quietness) began and ended in his name. But despite all his antics on and off the field, some of which I secretly enjoyed, he came across to me as someone who’d wear his heart on his sleeve when he had the ball in his hands. Take for instance, when he did a mid-pitch jig after smashing Andre Nel over his head. Or after making the pitch a pair of African drums when he knocked over Mathew Hayden in the World T20 semi-finals! But then there were some, where I felt like doing a Bhajji on him. Like when he bowled a beamer to Kevin Pietersen in England, or when he was giving an unwanted send-off to Andrew Symonds after the latter had already gone hammer and tongs on him. Or yesterday!
As the news about his arrest by Delhi Police trickled in, through Twitter of course, my first reaction was that of disbelief. I was led to believe that it was a massive frame up. It began to sink in. Slowly. If Hansie Cronje, believed to be an epitome of honesty, could succumb, Sree was like the hungry lonely fish in a drying pond. Easy picking!
How could a man who seemingly is from a well-to-do family, earning probably to the count of millions of dollars through his contracts, and well on his way back to the Indian team be so stupid? Surely, money can’t be the lure in this case, although it might have been for Ajith Chandila and Ankeet Chavan! Was it his friendship with his “distant relative” Jiju Janardhan? It probably was, but only Sree can answer that.
I am being told by reliable sources that he was quite a loner in the team. But in Rahul Dravid, he had the best leader possible to get his career back on track. He was back bowling, and bowling well. And the more heartening part - behaving better! He was largely credited for being an inspiration to another probable future Indian player from Kerala - Sanju Samson and also to a talented Sachin Baby. One can only wonder what’s going through them after their ‘etan’ (big brother in Malayalam) is now probably behind bars now for selling himself off.
Santhakumaran Sreesanth was always an enigma. He remains one. Sadly, not just for his former fans, but even for his own family!