Banned from playing cricket following the IPL match fixing controversy, Sreesanth gets into a new arena with “Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa”

As Sreesanth enters into the Jhalak House in Versova, silence descends on the otherwise cheery training base of the popular dance-based reality show Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa on Colors where celebrity participants put on their dancing shoes to impress the jury and the voting public. A cub reporter whispers he was better suited for Bigg Boss. The choreographer of another celebrity contender suddenly starts explaining to his subject in a hushed tone how matches in IPL can be fixed. To break the ice, an excited reporter asks about the ‘raakhis’ on his supple wrist. “These are strings from Guruvayur Temple,” replies Sreesanth with a smirk. “Are you religious,” she tries to cover up. “Spiritual,” he retorts. After an animated chit chat, Sreensanth settles for a one-on-one on what is being seen as a move to redeem himself after being banned for life by BCCI for alleged match fixing in IPL.

Excerpts:

Is it a move to test your popularity?

It is more about telling the world that nothing should stop you. I was missing the game and till the case gets over I have nothing to do except for testing my patience and practising hard. When this opportunity came, more than me it’s my family and friends who pushed me to tell the world that nothing can stop you. My wife said, “You love dancing so why not explore that.” It is a big challenge.

Do you feel that you were framed?

We will get to know only after the court’s verdict comes out around September-October. As long as you are sure that you are not guilty you should not run away.

But have you been able to figure out your fault?

I think I should have been careful about my lifestyle. I think more than anything else I was pin pointed because of my lifestyle. I was spending my money but the authorities got suspicious. They were shocked to find that how can somebody spend so much money that is his. It is all white. I have been brought up in a way where I always enjoy my friends’ company but now I have to be careful because I realise that I was with the wrong people at the wrong time.

Do you think you were targeted by a lobby?

I don’t know. I am not illiterate about these things. I should have been careful but my question is: Is it only me who was living a life like that.

Your critics feel that you got carried away by success

I want to tell everybody that I didn’t get carried away. I was plagued by injuries at crucial moments of my career. And whatever I have come to know about the case is that I have been used. I never wanted to play IPL. I wanted to bring Sachin Baby and Sanju Samson to Rajasthan Royals. It was more about promoting Kerala cricketers than myself. If I am not wrong I brought seven cricketers from Kerala to Rajasthan Royals for selection on my own money.

Is your cricket career over?

No, I am training hard. Except for the last 21 days at the Jhalak House, I have been training hard. I have got my own ground in Kochi made from my own money. The BCCI ban says that I cannot use their facilities but I can use my facilities. My friends call me a sleeping lion. Don’t you think it will be great if I win Jhalak and get back on the field as well. I am working on my bowling rhythm and this time I might surprise you as a batsman as well.

Will we see your dramatic side in Jhalak… as well?

Whatever I do, I do with passion. So you will see it in my dance as well. I feel Jhalak is a serious stage for dance. I know break dance and street dance but this is a different level altogether because you have to try many dance forms. I am fortunate that I have got a very talented choreographer in Sheha Kapoor, who has represented India in World Salsa Championships in Orlando. And the record shows that the show provides bigger opportunities to celebrities and choreographers.

You have already signed a Tamil-Telugu film.

As a kid I always wanted to be an actor. It is in my family. My elder brother is into music, my sister is an actor. I wanted to do something different. I am not only acting but also composing the music of Anbulla Azagae.

Is there an offer for a Hindi film as well?

There is. It will be announced after the show.

Did you feel cornered in the Indian dressing room?

I shouldn’t be answering that. I always enjoyed the company of my fellow players. I helped everybody.I did hear some colleagues say that ‘Sreesanth toh apni hi karta tha’. Coming from Kerala I have had much more responsibility than a lot of other people. I came through tough competition. But now, just because cricket has stopped I should not stop living.

But your detractors can say that you always wanted to be in the glamour industry…and you were stopped by the authorities while you were playing…

There are people who stopped me from doing this. Now nobody can stop me. And once this is over, nobody can stop me from playing as well. Why waste time, when you have just one lifetime. Oh! It rhymes well. Isn’t it?