Pace bowler S Sreesanth has been in the eye of the storm ever since the Delhi police arrested him on charges of spot-fixing last month.
A Delhi court later pulled up the police for insufficient evidence against Sreesanth while granting him bail after 27 days in custody.
The temperamental bowler opened up for the first time after the incident, to Varghese K George, in a hospital room where he is admitted due to viral fever.
In a freewheeling chat for over an hour, Sreesanth spoke about his friends, parties, habits, marriage and of course, the controversial over where he tucked in a towel.
How has life been since your arrest?
It has been tough. In one way, I took it in my stride. I have learnt a lot.
How did you react when the Delhi police told you about your arrest?
I was shocked, could not make sense of it. I could not even ask, why me. I was completely unaware of what it was all about. I was taken to Delhi, where I learnt about the charges. Then I learnt how tough it was going to be. I cooperated. That is all what I could do.
Did you look back and told yourself, ‘I shouldn’t have done that,’ about anything?
Not really. I haven’t harmed anyone, anything, not even a plant. As a youngster, I may have made small mistakes. People talk about my attitude. I am not the only one to have an attitude — whether you describe it good or bad.
Are all these allegations false and baseless?
I will not say anything. All I can say is I must be patient and trust the judiciary. During my stay in Tihar I met a lot of under trials who have been waiting for long. Many are inside for crimes that they may not have committed; waiting for the verdict. So, I have to wait. I have never let the game down; I can never ever do that.
But you must explain your innocence, no?
I totally respect my lawyers and the judicial system. I want my innocence to be established in the court.
So you have never talked to a bookie?
I don’t want the case to be prejudged. Let the court and the judicial process take a view. I’ve explained everything to BCCI.
You seem to have splurged a lot during the recent months.
I have only used my money — all legally earned, tax-paid. I don’t have a single rupee unexplained. Whatever stuff I bought is with my own money. I don’t swipe credit cards usually. I withdraw cash for shopping. My parents keep asking me why I spend so much. I like it that way. You work hard; spend a lot — on yourself and on others.
Has anyone else from the cricketing fraternity empathised with you?
Both my numbers are with the police. So I don’t know whether anyone tried to reach me or not. But I won’t hold a grudge even if they did not call. If something like this has happened to even my best friend, I may have thought twice before calling him.
Don’t you regret anything in life?
I am grateful to the almighty for my life, to my parents for the upbringing. Once things are clear, I have much more to live for and achieve.
You seem to be a believer? I am told you kept a picture of Mother Mary and Jesus through your stay in Tihar.
Yes, I do. I carry idols of Ganesha, pictures of St Antony and Jesus. Every morning and evening, I pray. I have a small temple that is part of my cricket bag. It is with the Mumbai police and I hope to get it back soon.
You joined the Indian squad at 22 and must have made a lot of money. Have you splurged it all or are you financially comfortable?
I made a lot of money, which I have used to support my family and a lot of friends. One part of it also goes to charity that I don’t want to disclose or discuss. But yes, I am financially comfortable.
Your gift to a particular person in Jaipur has been a matter of intense speculation.
(chuckles) She is not the only person whom I have given a gift to. I believe friends are who you choose, while siblings are God’s decision. She is a good friend and I give gifts to so many of my friends - both boys and girls. It is all my money as I said.
Was there anything out of the ordinary about that over in which you tucked in a towel?
I have played my cricket, the best way I can. I tuck in a towel often, I wear headbands, wristbands, caps. Over the last one and a half months, I have gone through that over several times in my head.
I don’t know what they have been talking about. Was there anything out of the ordinary? It was a typical Sreesanth over. I am considered a test bowler and my economy rate has been above 8.
In that over, I bowled four good balls and the last two were hit for boundaries. But if someone is making connections to me having a towel and insists on it, what can I do? If there is a connection as it has been alleged, did I bowl a no ball? A wide? So that there could have been an extra run? A couple of balls were in fact wicket-taking ones.
For God’s sake, it was only because it was Gilchrist that it could be hit for boundaries. If I had to give 14 runs as people are talking about, I should have bowled a no ball and taken a free hit.
As for the towel, even if I had got a third over I would have had it. If you see the recording of the match, I am keeping that towel throughout the match until the last ball was bowled.
Are you planning to marry soon?
I don’t know. All depends what my parents decide. I know this girl for the last six years. It will be more of an arranged marriage. So let’s see. Right now, all that matters to me is to get back to the cricket field and play for India again.
Are you confident of getting a second chance?
I told BCCI the entire story. In those 27 days I had been treated like a criminal, a murderer.
Are you a stronger person now?
I am more a lover than a fighter. But I am thankful to the Kerala cricket administrators, T C Mathew sir and Jayesh sir. I am thankful to the BCCI for giving me a ray of hope.