S Sreesanth Says He Was Part Of 'Highs And Lows Of Indian Cricket'

Sreesanth played his first First Class match after nine years and believes he still has 'another seven years' to play at the highest level.

S Sreesanth is an eternal optimist. The pacer, at 39, is ready for the long haul in Indian cricket.

Shanthakumaran Nair Sreesanth is one of India's most flambouyant cricketers. At 39, he still manages to rattle batters with his swinging deliveries. That's what Sreesanth did on Thursday on his return to red-ball cricket in Ranji Trophy. Playing his first First Class match after nine long years, the Kerala pacer took two wickets on Day 1 of their Elite Group A match against Meghalaya in Rajkot. And it's only the beginning of a long road to redemption. (More Cricket News)

Having failed to find any takers during the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 mega auction, the veteran of 90 international matches (27 Tests, 53 ODIs and 10 T20Is), needed an avenue to make his presence in a sport that is "life and death" for him. But beyond that, once fearsome right-arm pacer also knew the importance of sharing the moments that defined his career.

Before his comeback to First Class cricket, Sreesanth revealed his best deliveries while also conceding that he was part of both the highs and lows of Indian cricket. The highs would surely be taking that T20 World Cup-winning catch against Pakistan in 2007 and of course his role in India's triumphant ODI World Cup campaign four years later.

Then, there was that dark chapter, that infamous IPL match-fixing scandal in 2013. And seemingly, the endless days of struggle after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) banned him for life. He was 30 then. His ban was subsequently reduced to seven years and now, Sreesanth is harbouring a comeback to international cricket.

Sreesanth talked about his skill-set while also harking back at his past, that phase that turned his life upside down.

"I enjoyed the limelight at that time,” Sreesanth told Wisden India. "It was nice to see, across the globe and especially in the cricketing fraternity, they were praising the seam position and reverse swing."

"Highs and lows of Indian cricket, I was part of it."

Sreesanth also revealed that he's now sharing his vast experience with Kerala teammates.

"I am in that zone where, I have told all the bowlers in my team, that you can look into the face and all that, but more than talking, with my own experience – which I learnt from Allan Donald when I played for Warwickshire – it’s good to save that energy, go back to the run-up and give it all out when you bowl."

“Getting him out is the best way to get him injured. When you are a youngster, you want to bounce him, bowl a yorker. That side of Sreesanth is gone. I would love to get wickets rather than get anybody hurt. When I say this, people will say ‘You are not fast enough to hurt anybody’, but trust me, this season might be a surprise for a lot of people. Every ball, every practice session means business. It’s like life and death for me.”

After all, Sreesanth has been there, done that at the highest level.

Known for his ability to move the ball, Sreesanth has produced some unplayable deliveries while playing for India. And he still vividly remembers the best of the lot.

"I will surely say the ball I got [Ashwell] Prince out when he was batting well [is one of my best]. I think he was about to reach fifty in Cape Town in 2010, where I got a five-for. And the very next ball I got [Mark] Boucher out with an outswinger.

"But the best ball I have ever bowled was to Daren Ganga [during India’s tour of the West Indies in 2006]. I rate that as the No.1 ball I have ever bowled. That was an out-swinging yorker. I was bowling 123 [kph], 126, 121, 124 [YouTube footage shows Sreesanth bowling in the low 130s prior to the wicket]. Even the commentators were saying ‘He’s tired’. I think it was my sixth or seventh over, and it was very well planned," Sreesanth was quoted as saying.

On Thursday, he got to bowled only 11.4 overs as Kerala dismissed Meghalaya for 148 runs. But Sreesanth was determined for the long haul even before the 2021-22 campaign. And he's a lot of contemporaries to look up to -- James Anderson, Imran Tahir, Sohail Tanvir, Brad Hogg, etc. 

"One of the motivations is James Anderson," Sreesanth added. "The way he bowled [in the Ashes], it was pure motivation.

"I’m sure it’s still hitting the seam, still moving, getting my beautiful outswingers. I am much wiser and not that aggressive, but the biggest change will be, I am a father now. I will be much more patient after marriage, so in batting also I’ll start scoring runs, like the oldies and veterans playing first-class.

"Even the guy [Darren Stevens], at 45, scored a first-class hundred for his county. So I have another seven years to go, wow," he said rather confidently.