A word here and a gesture there have often got S Sreesanth on the wrong side of situations, so much so that he has been termed difficult to handle by Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni himself.
His attempts to supplement his aggressive bowling with aggressive on-field persona have only helped to cook up one controversy after another in his injury-prone career that has seen him be part of two world cup winning sides – the 2007 T-20 and the 2011 50-over – and yet fail to get his due as an international cricketer in his own state, Kerala.
On Friday, the maverick fast bowler opened an old can of worms on his Twitter handle, saying that the ‘slapgate’ incident five years ago, when Harbhajan Singh was found to have slapped Sreesanth after a game between Mumbai Indians and King’s XI Punjab at Mohali, was planned and that his former India teammate Harbhajan Singh was a “backstabbing person”.
Sreesanth made a series of revelations on the 2008 incident, while he was with King’s XI, creating a fresh controversy, a day after a flare-up between Virat Kohli and Gautam Gambhir.
“To be where I am... I’ve no complaints... but now I want you all to know the truth,” Sreesanth tweeted. “Disgusting... that’s all I can say... you should get hold of the video... then you all will know the truth... what he did is completely out of control.” After the incident, Sreesanth was left in tears and Harbhajan was banned for the rest of the tournament, while Sreesanth was let off with a warning after disciplinary proceedings.
“All blamed me for getting emotional..?? come on, who doesn’t get emotional when u know the person who you worship is a backstabbing person...”. Sreesanth also demanded that the footage be made public.
“It’s not my fault at all... and I keep getting compared to all this bull s##*... whenever anything bad happens in IPL or cricket match... crazy. And when you start to see the big change in person who you trust so much.... the world comes down... that’s what happened..., He never slapped me,” he added.
Justice (retd) Sudhir Nanavati, who headed the ‘slapgate’ inquiry, contradicted Sreesanth’s claim. He said on TV there was no provocation from Sreesanth’s part and Harbhajan tried to slap him for the second time but was restrained by security guards. “In the video footage, I have seen Harbhajan use the backside of his right palm to give him (Sreesanth) a slap on the right side of his face. It was there in the footage.”
Sreesanth’s Kerala teammates consider him to have had a difficult path to tread in being an India player. “As teammates, we have always got a feeling that he was disturbed by the Indian dressing room not giving him due recognition as a cricketer who got there on the sheer dint of talent and performance,” former Kerala captain Sony Cheruvathur told TNIE. “Coming from a state which hardly boasts of a long tradition in cricket, and though he has never openly said that, it must have been very difficult for him.”