The horror of Friday the 13th finally struck former Indian Test pacer S Sreesanth. For all his claims of being "clean" and "innocent", the God-fearing Kerala pacer was banned for life after a Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) disciplinary committee found him guilty of spot-fixing matches during the Indian Premier League (IPL) this year. (Also see in pics: Sreesanth, the king of controversies)
Sreesanth was not alone. Ankeet Chavan, Sreesanth's Rajasthan Royals' teammate, was also banned for life for a plethora of charges that included match-fixing, underperforming for a reward and for failing to report an approach by bookmakers to fix games. The life ban will mean the cricketers will not play any representative cricket or will be associated with the activities of the BCCI or its affiliates. Both Sreesanth and Chavan are expected to challenge the life ban in court. (Also read: 'Sad day for Mumbai cricket')
Acting on a probe report compiled by the BCCI's Anti-Corruption Unit chief Ravi Sawani, the Board's disciplinary committee comprising BCCI president (in exile) N. Srinivasan and two senior vice-presidents Arun Jaitley and Niranjan Shah handed a five-year ban to Amit Singh for facilitating spot-fixing and/or receiving a payment or gift to bring the game into disrepute. (Read BCCI's full statement here)
A one-year ban was handed to a fourth Royals player, Siddharth Trivedi, who was charged with soliciting players to fix games. The only player to escape any punishment was 21-year-old Harmeet Singh. For lack of evidence, the case against the former India Under-19 left-arm spinner was closed.
According to Sawani's report, another Rajasthan player Ajit Chandila is also facing serious spot-fixing charges. Chandila, like Sreesanth and Chavan, conceded a "pre-determined number of runs per over in exchange for bribes" and even served a jail term. Chandila got bail earlier this week and will be heard at a later date. The 29-year-old off-spinner from Haryana could become the third player to get a life ban.
In terms of a professional cricket career, Sreesanth, pushing 31, will be the biggest to suffer. His plans to play for India again has been severely jolted. Ironically, Sreesanth, who has played 27 Tests and 53 ODIs, looked upbeat after being the last man to meet the BCCI disciplinary committee at a posh city hotel Friday evening.
Sreesanth told reporters that there was "no talk of any ban" and that the panel was "very cooperative." Sreesanth also said: "I have not cheated the game and hope the BCCI gives me an opportunity to play again." But in less than an hour, his hopes came crashing down as the BCCI announced the life ban!
The presence of Srinivasan in Friday's disciplinary committee proceedings did raise eyebrows. The BCCI president, whose company India Cements owns Chennai Super Kings, is himself battling PILs at the Bombay High Court and the Supreme Court. Although there are no direct charges of corruption against Srinivasan, his son-in-law and CSK member Gurunath Meiyappan is facing allegations of betting during IPL6. Also battling court cases are the Rajasthan Royals owner Raj Kundra.
On June 10, the BCCI had launched "Operation Clean Up" to remove sleeze, control corruption and punish anyone who tarnished the reputation of Indian cricket. The bans handed out to the cricketers seem to be a step in the right direction, but will the clean-up exercise finally net the big fishes? Will cricket play a great leveller?