A rude shock

Kerala woke up on the morning of May 16 with a jolt. A jolt so big and rude that you could almost feel the shockwaves — generated by S. Sreesanth’s arrest in Mumbai for alleged spot-fixing in the IPL — across the State.

There was disbelief when the television channels flashed the news in the morning. And there were even people willing to buy the conspiracy theory, initially. But as the day wore on, as more details emerged, especially with the Delhi Police’s press conference on live television, the disbelief turned to for disappointment and anger.

It is a body blow to the sport in Kerala, no doubt. After all, Sreesanth has been the poster boy of Kerala cricket for the last few years. Until the emergence, about a couple of weeks ago, of Sanju Samson, his IPL team-mate at Rajasthan Royals, Kerala’s claim to cricketing fame was only this paceman who at his best was among the very best in the world, as he was in South Africa in 2006. And he was part of two World Cup winning teams.

He was, naturally, an inspiration for thousands of young aspiring cricketers and their parents: he showed one could make it to the top even from the cricketing backwaters that Kerala still is.

Sreesanth’s fall from grace cannot be overstated. There aren’t enough heroes on the cricket pitches in Kerala, notwithstanding the gifted Sanju and the extremely promising seamer Sandeep Warrier. His arrest has come, ironically, at a time when Kerala is going through its best ever phase in the history of the sport.

The past season saw the whipping boys of South Zone, who previously could do well only on the doctored home pitches, transform into a supremely confident team that could beat the likes of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad and Punjab within a few weeks.

Incidentally, Sreesanth’s presence in the Ranji side, as he was making a comeback from a severe toe injury that had kept him out of cricket for over a year, had played a big role in lifting the morale of the team.

One recalls watching him bowl quick and well against Jharkhand at the Perinthalmanna Cricket Ground, last December. Then, he seemed just a few fine performances away from the Indian team.

He seemed to love the attention he received at Perinthalmanna, where fans came just to watch him. He didn’t disappoint them. He posed with them for photographs, signed autographs. He enjoyed the limelight. He always has. Kerala may take some time to recover from what must be its biggest scandal involving a popular hero, in sport or any other sphere, in living memory.

A cricket administrator close to Sreesanth said he would have found it easy to believe any other scandal involving him, but not something as terrible as match-fixing. But, then, life is like that; its uncertainties, glorious or not so glorious, could rival those in cricket.

And sometimes in life, unlike in cricket, one no-ball is enough to undo all the great overs you have delivered all your life.

P. K. Ajith Kumar