Bollywood bowler’s new start... in Fife!
Indian cricket hero heading for Glenrothes
IN his native India, he is a household name: a Test cricketer turned film star. Married to royalty, he boasts a millionaire lifestyle and more than a million followers on social media.
Yet the man known to his legion of fans simply as Sree is set to turn his back on his homeland – and move to a small Scots town.
Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, fast-medium bowler and Bollywood idol, has announced he may soon don his whites again to play for Glenrothes Cricket Club.
Within the next few weeks, the 34-year-old father-of-two, who has never been to Fife, hopes to get the go-ahead to join the team.
Although it may seem a comedown, the cricketer who – along with his beautiful wife Bhuvneshwari Kumari and young family – constantly features in the pages of celebrity magazines, is considering the switch to Scotland as a way of returning to the sport he loves. The move will mark the end of a turbulent three years for the two-time world champion, who has played in 27 Test matches.
Speaking from his home in India, Sreesanth said: ‘The only thing missing in my life is cricket. Making movies is great, but if you ask what I really want to do, it’s play cricket. I don’t want to waste any more of my cricketing years.’
Three years ago, he was still at the top of his game when he was given a lifetime ban for an alleged role in a match-fixing scandal in the 2013 Indian Premier League. The charges were later dropped and he was exonerated by a Delhi court – but the ban remains and there is no formal appeals process, meaning he can’t play cricket. Now Glenrothes, of Scotland’s Eastern Premier League, want to give Sreesanth the chance to resurrect his career. They hope that if he can persuade the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to reconsider the ban soon, he will be playing for them by the summer. Sreesanth said: ‘I haven’t played for three years but if I can get the ban lifted, I will be on the next flight to Scotland. I would love to play for the club and work with the youngsters.’ Cricket Scotland will not allow him to be registered as a Glenrothes player until the BCCI issues a ‘No Objection Certificate’, which permits him to play competitive cricket without breaching International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations.
If the Indian authorities refuse, the club intends to take the fight to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.
Yesterday, Glenrothes president Eddie Gibbs said they were keen to right what they see as an injustice towards ‘a hero of the game’.
He added: ‘He is genuinely innocent; this is a miscarriage of justice. The BCCI are the only ones who can make this go away, as there is no system for appeal. But they refuse to talk to the player or his representatives.’
Sreesanth, whose wife belongs to the Diwanpura royal family of Rajasthan, said: ‘I’m not asking for the BCCI to let me back into the Indian team; but if they would just lift the ban I could start again at club level. Eddie has become like family to me. He’s given me a great opportunity at Glenrothes.’
Mr Gibbs admitted the idea of an international star playing at their club had caused quite a stir.
Laughing, he said: ‘When I first mentioned it at the club, the reaction was shock. We are just a small club and people had to pinch themselves. If this comes off, and we’re confident it will, there won’t have been a story like this in Scottish cricket ever before.’ A BCCI spokesman said: ‘Mr Sreesanth faces a life ban by the BCCI and this has been communicated to the ICC also.’
HEART-THROB: Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, above left, pictured with his fellow Bollywood star Navya Nair
ACTOR: Sreesanth, centre, takes a leading role in India’s Dancing with the Stars
SPORTSMAN: Sreesanth in his days playing for India