Maverick pacer S Sreesanth, who is all set to make a comeback in the Irani Cup tie starting on Wednesday, tells Derek Abraham he is hungrier than ever.
Another injury lay-off, another comeback attempt — you have gone through this many times in your seven-year international career...
(Laughs) I have honestly lost count! But what I can assure you is that I am eager to perform. And if you remember, my last ‘comeback game’ was also an Irani Cup tie (2009). We (Rest of India) beat Mumbai on first innings. I had bowled well in that match (20-6-46-3) and got picked for the Sri Lanka series at home.
Well, you were also fined 60% of your match fee for “using offensive language” towards a Mumbai player in that Irani tie.
Oh, come on! It was a needless controversy. But you may please check my track record. I have not been fighting too much since that incident. Trust me, you won’t see the old Sreesanth again. For me, life is more than cricket. I have spent weeks together on wheelchairs and I also know what it’s like to walk with crutches on. I am a better person. I am not worried about my past. I am only looking ahead.
Do you remember the last time you played for India?
Yes, it was the fourth and final Test against England at The Oval. I took 3/100 (3/123, actually).
And you got injured again!
Yes, it was a terrible feeling.
Talk us through your time away from cricket...
I went home (Kochi) for a few days and then checked in at the NCA (Bangalore). Actually, I first underwent ayurvedic treatment but, unfortunately, it didn’t work this time. I have realised that it’s ideal for muscle-related injuries. But when it comes to my bones, ayurveda doesn’t work. No disrespect here, but that’s what I feel.
It’s called bone marrow edema. Both my feet, as in big toes, were affected. It occurs when excess fluids in the bone marrow build up and cause swelling. In all, I underwent six surgeries, all in London. You know what, I have two platinum nails on each toe. It’s permanent. But it’s nice to get ‘poked’ once in a while, in a funny way (laughs).
I suffered the injury in August 2011. After a few months of ayurveda, I played a Ranji game but didn’t feel good. And finally, I flew to the UK in May. Landed on the 20th, met the doctor on 21st, the surgeries were performed the very next day. I don’t quite remember what happened on 23rd and 24th. I was on morphine! Got discharged the next day. I stayed in London for another week. Then flew down to Bangalore. Realised I had lost about 10 kg in two months! I was at home for almost three weeks. Then I started doing some core strengthening exercise. Had the stitches removed. Never before had I gone to the NCA on a wheelchair. Felt weird, actually. My friends dubbed me crazy. Why? Because I even went to gym on a wheelchair. I was working on my upper body! I was fighting against time. I had to do it.
You’ve been quoted as saying that you even thought you’d never play again...
Forget playing, I thought I’d never run on a treadmill again. Never thought I could jog. It was a terrible phase.
But you fought it out. When did you set foot on a cricket ground again?
Guess what, I played a tennis-ball tournament in Kochi! I represented Son Cricket Club and we won that tournament. I bowled well. But you won’t believe what happened on Day One. My first delivery was hit for a six. It was a 16-year old batsman and about 3,500 people watched it. It was a six-overs-a side game. The semifinal was an eight-over contest and the final 12 overs. That’s how desperate I was. I wanted to somehow run in and bowl fast. I even played in the ‘B’ division league in Kochi.
You then played four matches for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy...
My comeback was not memorable. It was against Tripura in Agartala. I got two wickets in 38 overs.
But you did well in the next two matches and then got picked for that warm-up game against England.
Honestly, I didn’t expect to get picked. But I bowled well (7-1-16-1; dismissed Kevin Pietersen).
The Irani Cup is crucial for you...
Do you realise you could be bowling with the new ball, even leading the pace attack if Zaheer Khan doesn’t recover in time for first Test...
Zaheer bhai has been my hero since my days at the MRF Pace Foundation. He used to stand at mid-on or mid-off and guide me, telling me what length to bowl. He will train really hard and get back.
What if he doesn’t? Are you ready to take over the responsibility. There’s a four-match Test series coming up...
I’m ready, no doubt. But let me first do well in the Irani Cup. Kerala had four points from five Ranji games before I joined the team. Manu Krishnan and Sandeep Warrier are two very good bowlers. I was guiding them all through. I know there’s no comparison between domestic and international cricket. But what I am saying is I can do the job.
A lot of pacers have made their way into the team. What’s your take on them?
Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, Mohd Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar are all very good bowlers. I have played with all of them. They have great skills, great work ethic. It’s good for Indian cricket.
How did it feel to watch India lose series after series?
Look, every team goes through this. Australia went through it, Sri Lanka did. So it’s nothing unusual. And Like Dhoni bhai says ‘dekha jayega (we’ll see)’. I can’t wait to play the Irani game. It starts on 6th and it’s my birthday. I’ll turn 30, but you need not write that (laughs). The best part is that I’ll be bowling to my God!