Sreesanth Opens Up About IPL Spot-Fixing Charges & His 7 Years in Exile
Sreesanth opens up about the spot-fixing charges that almost ended his career & the 7 years he spent in exile.
Video Editor: Vishal Singh
(This interview was first published on 15 July, 2020 and it’s being republished following Sreesanth's decision to retire from all forms of domestic cricket on 9 March 2022.)
Ninety international matches for India but Shanthakumaran Sreesanth’s cricket career was cut short overnight when police officials arrested him from Carter Road in Mumbai at 3:30 am on 16 May 2013. The Kerala pacer and his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan were brought to Delhi and interrogated for 27 days on allegations of spot-fixing.
Four months later, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) banned a 30-year-old Sreesanth for life, even though a few years down the line, a Delhi trial court dropped all charges against him and others. The BCCI’s ban, too, was reviewed in 2019 and reduced to seven years, paving the way for Sreesanth to return to the sport on 13 September 2020 – two months from now.
The Quint spoke to the 37-year-old about the night he was arrested, the years of his struggle, and the life he has planned, going forward.
16 May 2013 was a day that completely changed your life. Do you remember where you were when you were arrested that night? What was going through your mind when you were being put into a police car in the middle of the night?
May 16, I very clearly remember. I remember exactly what happened. I was picked up at 3:15-3:30 am from Carter Road on the way to an afterparty. I was just blindfolded and asked to sit in the car for a long time. I actually thought someone is doing a bakra or something, the way they stopped the car and the commandoes told me to come with them. Then we went to Delhi and they took me as if I was a terrorist or something, completely blindfolded, in bulletproof cars.
I was very emotional at the time, I was just crying.
After 12 days I was taken to Tihar Jail and after 27 days, I think June 9 I got the bail.
I remember all those things. I have forgiven myself for forgiving a lot of people. I think even God may not forgive them but I have forgiven even me for forgiving them.
Jiju Janardhan was a name that came up quite a lot in Delhi Police’s charge sheet of the spot-fixing case. He was said to be the middle-man between you and the bookies with lots of pictures of you two used as evidence.
Did you know him? Did he admit he was a bookie?
I don’t even want to talk about him. My mother used to call him her son. I knew him from the MRF Pace Foundation and he’s a cricketer but the police and the media showed him as a bookie. They showed him as he was everywhere – in my house, shopping with me to prove that he was some bookie and ask, ‘Why is Sreesanth seen with a bookie?’ That was the main idea behind how they showed it.
It took me almost two-and-a-half years to prove it. All I asked him is, ‘Have you done it’? and he said no. That’s the only conversation I had with him.
“A lot of people don’t know he had come for Rajasthan Royals’ selection. They don’t talk about it because if they talk about it, then he doesn’t become a bookie.”
The spot-fixing allegation against you that according to ‘the fix’ you were to concede 14 runs in your second spell. You were supposed to use a towel before the over and waste some time to indicate to the bookies that this was the over. However, you didn’t have a second spell in the match and your second over went for 13 runs.
But, it was still believed that you had colluded with the bookies. How did you explain this to the officers investigating the case?
I was interrogated for 16 to 18 hours, literally asked the same question again and again. In the FIR, my picture was next to Dawood’s.
People who were behind this, the ones who planned this... even Rajasthan Royals for that matter. The way they washed their hands (off me) by saying they terminated my contract on 12 May. That was the biggest lie on Earth. I was asked to come to Delhi on 17 May, me and Brad Hogg in fact. We had qualified for the knockouts and we were asked to come to Delhi on the 18th but there was an ed appearance in Bombay and that’s the only reason I went to Bombay.
There are so many things no one knows as I’m talking about them for the first time.
About the match, I never got a second spell, as you said. Even if I had got a second spell, I would have used a towel because it was really hot. The first four balls went for five runs. I didn’t bowl a single no ball, I didn’t bowl a single wide. I didn’t even try for a slower ball. He would have got out when I tried the bouncer. Why will I get someone out if I knew what was happening?
The case, first of all, was not there because they said the bookie was talking about 14 plus runs, so there itself the case is over (the over went for 13 runs).
There were just four months between your arrest and the BCCI making its decision to ban you for life. In fact the case was still being heard in court. How tough was it for your to accept the life ban even when later all charges were dropped by the Delhi trial court?
I was given an opportunity to explain myself but literally no explanation was needed. Even before I went for the interview, I got calls and messages telling me that news channels were already showing I was to be given a life ban.
Obviously they had their own reasons and maybe washing their hands off was easy. ‘Anyway he’s got 12 surgeries done, he’s a Malayali at the end of the day, won two World Cups’... You know I went up (in the meeting), explained myself and by the time I got out of the lift, it was on the news... that I had got a life ban.
Last year, the BCCI reduced your life ban and made it seven years, which means you can return to cricket in September 2020. Excited about your comeback? What are your targets?
I am really looking forward to my comeback. It’s a great responsibility, other than a challenge.
I want to win the Ranji Trophy for Kerala straightaway this year. There is no one-year, two-year, three-year plan. Plan is to win it this year.
People ask me, ‘are you nervous?’ I am more than nervous because the first ball I bowl in a first-class match I think will be covered. One thing is there, my teammates always told me I’m an entertainer. I am looking forward to it.
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