It was with shock and disbelief that Kerala, home State of Sreesanth, reacted on Thursday to the news of his arrest over the charge of IPL spot-fixing. Even late Thursday evening, his fans and friends in Kochi were not ready to accept the Delhi Police’s disclosure that Sree was involved in a heinous act like this which brought disrepute to the game and also the State.
The shocked and upset parents and relatives of Sreesanth initially blamed MS Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh for the arrest saying that they had set the trap for him but they withdrew the allegation in the afternoon and apologised to the cricketers and the entire people of Kerala for making that statement.
The achievements Sreesanth had made in his career at the national and international levels had been an inspiration to all budding cricketers in Kerala but the news of his arrest over spot-fixing in IPL had caused immense anxiety in the minds of them all, said the Kerala Cricket Association (KCA).
“My son is not someone who would do anything out of the way for making money. He is an ardent believer in God and he cannot do such a thing,” was how Savithri Devi, mother of Sreesanth, reacted to the news. “He is in the habit of believing anyone completely. Someone could have led him into a trap,” she said.
On Thursday afternoon, Sreesanth’s father Santhakumaran Nair told the media that the family was withdrawing the allegations it had leveled against Dhoni and Harbhajan Singh in connection with his son’s arrest. “It was a statement made in the sudden shock of that news. I apologise to both those players and all Keralites,” he said.
Immediately after the news of the arrest broke, Nair, Sreesanth’s brother Deepu and brother-in-law Madhu Balakrishnan had said that Sreesanth was never a part of spot-fixing and that he was trapped by some others. Madhu Balakrishnan had even gone to the extent of saying that there was an attempt to block Sree’s marriage scheduled to be held in September.
Santhakumaran Nair said that he knew Jiju Pokkan Janardhanan, the Keralite cricketer who is said to have acted a go-between for Sreesanth and the bookies. Jiju, also known as Biju, and Sreesanth had played cricket together for a Kochi-based club, according to sources. His father Janardhanan said in Kannur that he did not consider Jiju as capable of doing such things.
TC Mathew, secretary, KCA, said that the association would take stringent action against Sreesanth once the charges against him were proved. However, Sreesanth should be considered as innocent till such time, he said. Union Minister Shashi Tharoor said he was sad over the development but added that nobody should jump to conclusions in the matter.
CPI’s Kerala secretary Pannyan Raveendran, himself a former sportsman and an ardent fan of cricket, said he was unable to believe the reports on Sreesanth’s arrest. “Everyone knows that there are bookies and betting in cricket. But the report that Sree himself has been involved is unbelievable. He is often accused of being hot-tempered but this is unbelievable,” he said.
Fans, friends and acquaintances of Sreesanth in Kochi refused to believe the report on his arrest for IPL spot-fixing. They said Sree was never known for his ability to keep those around him in good humour for long or for tolerating people he thought he could not mingle with but he was “a clean person, personally and cricket-wise”.
“I don’t know anything about his behind-the-screen life. But I will surely say that he is one of the best cricket players I have ever seen,” said Bejoy of Kakkanad who used to watch Sree practising at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kaloor, Kochi. “In fact, I have learned a bowling trick or two from him. He is a good teacher in that sense,” he said.
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