Former Indian pacer Shanthakumaran Sreesanth made his much-anticipated return to competitive cricket in the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The 37-year-old took just seven balls to bag his first wicket in seven-and-a-half years.
The Kerala bowler, who served a reduced seven-year life ban for his involvement in the 2013 Indian T20 League spot-fixing scandal, has returned with three wickets in two games and has set sights for a potential recall to the Indian cricket team.
Former #India fast bowler #Sreesanth after his 7-year ban is all set to play for #Kerala in domestic cricket. He was included in the team for Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 tournament scheduled in January. @sreesanth36 says his goal is to be in #India 2023 World Cup team and win the cup! pic.twitter.com/G4mBEVoNth— Sreedhar Pillai (@sri50) December 30, 2020
Sreesanth’s ban ended in September 2020, and he was included in Kerala’s squad for Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in December. The questions raised were mainly about the veteran fast bowler’s ability to recreate his trademark swing bowling that often made opposition batsmen sweat buckets at the crease.
Perhaps, the Puducherry-Kerala fixture answered these concerns in time as Sreesanth forced Fabid Ahmed to play forward but got the ball to beat the inside edge and hit the middle stump. It wasn’t the perfect in-swinger, but it did bring back the memories of a prime Sreesanth.
Thanks a lot for all the support and love ..it’s just the beginning..with all of ur wishes and prayers many many many more to go..❤️🇮🇳🏏lots of respect to u nd family .. #blessed #humbled #cricket #bcci #kerala #love #team #family #india #nevergiveup pic.twitter.com/bMnXbYOrHm— Sreesanth (@sreesanth36) January 11, 2021
He took to Twitter to pour out his emotions, and it didn’t take long for cricket fans to quickly congratulate him for his never-say-die attitude.
Remembering the quote from the book Alchemist.....""When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."....Keep going man...with thirst for wickets...💪💪👍👍✌️✌️✌️....— Unnikrishnan K S (@Unnikri21840181) January 11, 2021
I couldn't hold myself to post these victory pictures of #Sreesanth— Anjali Sreefam🏏🎬💖 (@AnjaliMahajan11) January 11, 2021
1st wicket after 7 heavy long years 💖💖
Watching him on to play on field 💖 His Hardwork finally paid off 💖@sreesanth36 pic.twitter.com/2arbmBq5vK
The fire in your belly is out. Don't get this take a backfoot with your emotions. It needs to be preserved till you come back in the team. Great going buddy. No worries you will come hard on your detractors— Sujith Nair (@sujith768) January 12, 2021
You could have been banned for two or three years. But the seven-year was too long. We miss your game so much. It was very entertaining for us where you were there in the ground.— Ratnakar Gouda (@Ratnakar_G24) January 13, 2021
I want to see you in playing 11 in Indian cricket team🤗.
Angry bird..@sreesanth36🤗 #BCCI
Sreesanth saying "Thank You" to the pitch after the completing his spell against Pondicherry. pic.twitter.com/KPyI6Fg6ZL— Johns. (@CricCrazyJohns) January 11, 2021
Siddarth Kaul, one of the prominent bowling talents in the country, was one of the few big names to celebrate Sreesanth’s return.
What a ball bhai . Top class 🦁🔥— Siddharth Kaul (@iamsidkaul) January 12, 2021
The right-arm pacer finished with figures of 1/29 to cap an impressive performance in his first competitive game in years. His next game, against Mumbai, saw him produce one of his trademark aggression tactics. He attempted to sledge young Mumbai opener Yashasvi Jaiswal in the sixth over of the Kerala-Mumbai fixture.
The 19-year-old, unfazed by the taunts, slammed two sixes and a boundary in response to Sreesanth’s challenge.
Someone tell @sreesanth36 a long run-up & sledging doesn’t make anyone a world-class fast bowler. But getting hammered after you sledge makes it clear you’re more bluster than a bowler https://t.co/SeImbXBoJp— Charles Assisi (@c_assisi) January 14, 2021
After a wicket-less outing against Mumbai, Sreesanth returned to his usual best as he took the wickets of Shikhar Dhawan and Nitish Rana in Kerala’s six-wicket win over Delhi. While he dismissed Rana for 16 in the 12th over, the pacer got rid of a dangerous Dhawan in the 17th over after the southpaw’s 48-ball 77 helped Delhi post a mammoth score of 212/4 in their quota of 20 overs. Sreesanth had claimed the wicket of the India international with a full-toss delivery and was subsequently caught by Salman Nizar at the deep-mid wicket.
These performances have boosted Sreesanth’s morale for the remainder of the tournament, and cricket fans are eager to see the former India pacer continue his comeback journey in the sport with wickets and a title in the bag.
Feature Image courtesy: AFP / Prakash Singh