Where do I start this letter? I honestly have no idea. What can one say to a player who has been part of two World Cup winning squads, played numerous ODIs for India and has even represented the country in test cricket? Normally for such a player there'd be respect. But that's not what I'm feeling here.
I never truly was a fan of you, Sreesanth. You were one player who not only managed to irritate the opposition, the umpires and the match referees, but your own teammates and fans as well. But all that - all those controversies, fights, immature antics (if we may call your behavior that) - didn't matter much. Because at the end of the day, you were a cricketer with an Indian cap. And as a fan, I respected you for that one and only thing.
Any player who plays 27 tests for India deserves respect. No matter how poorly he fared in them. But you didn't exactly fare badly. There were moments of brilliance and you were without any doubt one of India's foremost talent in swing bowling. The victories in West Indies and South Africa were ones that you fashioned and people - people like me - who may not have been your fans, still adored you for it. And respected you.
But now it seems that even you don't respect yourself. That much is evident and clearly you were a talent that never knew your own worth. Had you known, you wouldn't have thrown it all away and I wouldn't be typing this.
I've plenty of memories of you, Sreesanth. Vivid ones too. The picture of you slamming Andre Nel back for a six and dancing, twirling your bat in the air or the catch you took at fine-leg and then proceeded to throw the ball back into the orbit in celebration as India won the Inaugural T20 World Cup are etched in memory. There are others too. One of you lifting the World Cup and lapping the Wankahede stadium, or crying in your pink Kings XI Punjab jersey in the IPL are memories of things that seemed like it happened just yesterday.
I remember the eccentric pounding of the ground when you got the wicket of Matthew Hayden in the 2007 T20 World Cup Semis, and the time when you trapped the great Brian Lara leg before in Antigua in 2006 with some exaggerated swing.
I can replay your bowling run up, the steady approach to the popping crease, the flailing away of your arms, the big leap of the delivery stride and the ball being released from your right hand, with your fingers at the seam. I can also replay the rituals, moments before the run-up, when you would take some deep breaths, mutter something under your breath, kiss the balls sometimes and look heavenwards before charging at the batsman. The stare at the batsmen after bowling the ball, attempting to throw the ball right back at the batsman when he hits it to you, the sledging that made Australians cringe and the eccentric, eccentric celebrations - all of that I've watched time and time again. Now these memories make me sad and make me want to forget them. Forget them so that you never happened.
I even had an opportunity to meet you once, face to face. In was sometime in September, 2010 and for a cricket fan like me, meeting someone like you who has represented India was everything. I'm sure you don't remember the incident but you talked to me for some 10 minutes and I remember walking away thinking that you were one of the nicest people I've met. You probably are. You even patiently posed for photos and signed in my cricket autograph book - 'keep smiling, Sreesanth'. I'm not smiling now.
I have that photo and the autograph. It was something I treasured. Not anymore.
When the spot-fixing story broke out, I wasn't surprised or shocked by it. Unfortunately that tells the current state of affairs of the game. But when I did see your name on the news, I was surprised. How can someone who has it all, someone who has experienced what millions in this country only dream about, someone whose job is what a billion hearts beat for do something so corrupt and vile? Greed is a big trap, and anybody can fall in it, but you were supposed to know better! Supposed to be better!
What you did was stupid. Idiotic. Ludicrous. And hopefully you realize that. Realize that by selling your integrity for a few lakhs as Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, you've lost everything you had. Honor, respect, love and your dreams. Maybe you'll repent one day. But the game of cricket will never forgive you, and neither will I.
For everytimeI look back at the photo, or my autograph book (which incidentally has your signature next to the likes of Anil Kumble and Rahul Dravid), I'll feel the emotion of shame. And the next time I remember any one of your memories, it'd be with disappointment.
I don't wish to hear your name anymore, but alas I will. And I can only pray that there are no more sinister men like you who would sell their very soul for money.
You may wonder who I am writing all this. My name is irrelevant. But what I am is relevant. I am the person, you let down. An Indian fan and a follower of the gentleman's game called cricket.
a follower of the gentleman's game called Cricket