'The game which I loved the most, it was taken away.'
The current national lockdown is no bar for Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who says his ban from cricket for the last six-and-a-half years felt like a 'lockdown'
The fast bowler was banned for life by BCCI on charges of spot-fixing during the IPL in 2013., Last year, the ban was reduced to seven years, making him eligible to play cricket from August.
During the ban, Sreesanth kept his cricket training going by building an indoor cricket facility, including a bowling machine, at his home in Kochi. He also built a fully-equipped gym to stay in shape, which has come to his rescue during the lockdown.
Sreesanth, 37, believes that if bowlers are restricted from applying saliva to the ball when cricket resumes after the coronavirus pandemic ends, then it will tilt the balance further towards the batsmen.
The two-time World Cup winner speaks to Harish Kotian/Rediff.com in the second segment of an eloquent interview:
How are you spending time during the lockdown?
See, everyone has been in lockdown for the last one month or so, but I have been in lockdown when it comes to my profession for the last six-and-a-half years.
I was only doing work related to movies, television and stuff, but when it comes to the game which I loved the most, it was taken away, it was not there with me.
I was fortunate in one way because when I was not allowed on the ground, I came up with my own indoor facility at my home.
I spent a lot of time at that time to make sure that my house has good facilities because going out was a difficult for me at that time.
So thanks to my mom, dad, my wife and kids and everybody for the support.
I am happy to be at home now because I am getting to spend more time with my family because from September I will be playing.
I have been making music, doing a lot of training, practicing, bit of cooking, lot of cleaning and a lot of eating.
My wife has started yoga and meditation and my kids have enough space to run around and play.
It is good to be busy through the day.
I make sure I get eight hours of sleep, two hours in eating food if you take 4 to 5 meals in the day, six hours of training, three hours of skill and strength and mobility and then 2 to 3 hours of watching movies with the family and one hour of Playstation games every day.
Your hard work in the gym seems to have paid off...
I have to be match fit, so I am working really hard on my fitness because youngsters nowadays are much fitter.
I shouldn't be like a 37-year-old fit guy when I play, my fitness should be like a 25 year old.
I last played a game when I was 30 and when I come back I would love to play my first game like a 30 year old.
So it's very important for me to use this time wisely.
I have one floor in my house which is completely dedicated to fitness. I spend a lot of time working on my fitness and doing exercises.
I feel this is the time when you should give to the needy and show gratitude towards the people, especially the doctors and healthcare workers, who are working really hard outside their own houses. Hats off to all of them.
Do you have a full fledged indoor training centre inside your home to keep practicing cricket during the lockdown?
I have an indoor cricket facility. I used to play cricket with my cook, he used to give throw downs. We were also using the bowling machine.
Batting wise, I am getting some good practice, but bowling-wise I can only bowl from five to six steps.
I don't want to reduce my run up because we are used to bowling on a 22 yard pitch. If I bowl from like 18 yards, then it will affect my line and length in the future.
I have a very small run up, but that is helping me to generate more pace.
How do you think this pandemic will change the landscape of cricket with things like applying saliva to the ball going out of the game in the future?
It is going to be difficult because it already a batsman's game.
And if you take out things like saliva on the ball then it will be very difficult to get reverse swing.
I hope that doesn't happen because I am sure that whoever will play cricket once it resumes won't have coronavirus because if you have the infection, then why would you play?
If you are not well, why would you be on the ground?
Maybe we could test players before the match. I don't know why people are discussing saliva on the ball because if you have some issues, then obviously you won't be playing.
When the ball is rough, then you use saliva to shine one side of the ball.
Sometimes sweat is better than saliva.
If you know to maintain the ball -- and I am very good at it. I love to reverse swing the old ball in Test matches.
I don't wait for the ball to get old and reverse, I just enjoy reversing the ball even when it is swinging normally.
Fast bowling is an art and I am good at it.
I do a lot of tricks with the cricket ball and you will see it when I start playing again.
I have the belief that I can be the best fast bowler around.
What is your view on a playing cricket in an empty stadium?
Playing in an empty stadium is fine with me. The matches can be telecast on television.
A lot of people won't be going to the ground, but people will look to stay home and be safe. Even the matches that are not telecast, like the domestic games, it can be shown on local channels.
If there are difficulties, there are possibilities. You have to look for the solution.
The fans can stay safe at home and the players can play in empty stadiums with the match being telecast on TV.