x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Cricket: Sreesanth episode shows it's all about the company you keep

Installing anti-corruption officials for IPL teams is a start but it will not eliminate problem of spot-fixing unless players are smarter about who they choose to mix with.

Shady managers were hanging around S Sreesanth long before he confessed to spot-fixing. Prakash Singh / AFP
Shady managers were hanging around S Sreesanth long before he confessed to spot-fixing. Prakash Singh / AFP

In an article entitled Him Against the World, a former colleague describes the years when he was perhaps S Sreesanth's only confidant in the media. It speaks of a sense of alienation that bordered on a persecution complex, and also of his poor choice of associates.

The article has a special mention for Sreesanth's "managers". "It was never the same person, though all of them were young, hair gelled in the latest fashion, sporting branded clothing," it read. "'Who are these guys?' I asked him once. 'Don't worry, I know them well,' he said."

My friend was right to worry. As the Indian Premier League enters the play-off stage, with Rajasthan Royals, his franchise, still in the fray, Sreesanth will not be at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Instead, he will be a few miles down the road, in police custody after confessing to spot-fixing.

One of those arrested along with Sreesanth was Jiju Janardhan, who had starred in a couple of Twenty20 tournaments in the Middle East. At the time of the arrest, Janardhan was masquerading as Sreesanth's representative.

Ever since the IPL began, and a profusion of undesirable characters closed in on suddenly rich cricketers, some have been urging the board to introduce an accreditation system for agents - one that ran background checks to ensure that the likes of Mazhar Majeed never got near the players.

No one listened.

In future, an anti-corruption official will also be associated with each team, who will accompany them along with a security officer. It will not eradicate greed or stop players determined to consort with the dark side, but it will make things harder.

It's sadly ironic that Rahul Dravid – Sreesanth's captain at the Royals – was one of the few to speak candidly about the threat posed by these fixing rings.

"We've always got to be vigilant and keep educating the players," he had said in the aftermath of the Oval fiasco in 2010. "The battle has to go on. What has happened is very sad. Purely from a human angle, I've been saddened.

"Three young players [Salman Butt, Mohammed Asif, Mohammed Aamer] have been convicted. Hopefully, others will realise that the consequences of doing such things are huge. I expect the sentences to act as a deterrent."

They didn't, and cricket is again left to pick up the pieces. After his arrest, Sreesanth's brother-in-law voiced the absurd assertion that it was part of some cynical ploy to damage his marriage prospects. Surrounded by people like that, it's little wonder that he went astray.

As a young man, Sreesanth had posters of Michael Jackson on his wall. And while the video of his manic pelvic thrusts, while brandishing the bat like a broadsword, after hitting Andre Nel for six quickly went viral, it was his bowling in that Wanderers Test that catapulted him into the limelight.

Greg Chappell, India's coach at the time, wrote: "I have never seen anyone bowl out-swing at genuine pace with better control and a more perfect seam position than Sree demonstrated in that Test and the next one in Durban. That includes the great Dennis Lillee.

"I spent a lot of time with Sree because he was a potential game-changer if only we could get him to add emotional intelligence to the great skill he possessed."

Unfortunately for Indian cricket, he chose to add stupidity instead.

sports@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @SprtNationalUAE