A photograph of cricketer S. Sreesanth smiles at passers-by from a board atop S36 sports store at Edappally in the city. The store, referred to as ‘Sreesanth’s sports shop’ by people here, is the first and only venture of S36 Sports and Entertainment Private Limited, in which the cricketer owns 74 per cent shares.
Staff at the store have been bombarded with questions about the controversy surrounding the cricketer ever since he was arrested recently on charge of spot-fixing during the Indian Premier League. Then came the allegation on Wednesday that S36 Sports and Entertainment had intended to take part in illegal betting.
“Reporters and camera persons were milling around the shop on Wednesday afternoon, soon after the controversy broke. They shut shop earlier than usual too,” said a salesperson from a neighbouring shop. On Thursday morning, however, it was business as usual at the small, cluttered store lined with cricket bats and shelves stuffed with gloves and track suits.
“Sales haven’t been affected by the controversy at all. The season has just ended with the summer vacations coming to a close. Otherwise, we are alright,” says a salesperson at the sports store.
A customer comes in asking for a ping pong ball. He tries bouncing the ball on the floor, pays, and leaves. No mention is made of the star owner of the shop. “Some customers do ask us if we know anything about the controversy surrounding Sreesanth. People have always sought out this store because it belongs to him,” says the store staff, careful not to offer any comment on the affairs of his employer.
The sports goods shop is a meeting place of sorts for young fans of the cricketer. Young members of the Ernakulam Cricket Club, which has practice sessions at the Edappally High School, drop in at the store regularly after the day’s practice. “Sreesanth, who is part of the Club, used to look in at the shop when he was visiting during the cricket camp at the club,” says the storekeeper.
The aspiring cricketers still drop in and help around the shop before they head home after practice. Some of the youngsters were also part of a meeting to express solidarity with their fallen hero held in the city earlier this week.