India’s former mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who has been in charge of Rajasthan Royals since 2013, has thrown fresh light on the Indian Premier League spot-fixing scandal in his recently-launched book The Barefoot Coach.
Talking about S Sreesanth’s little-known extraordinary outburst on being dropped for an IPL game against Mumbai Indians in 2013, Upton, with the wisdom of hindsight, says that he saw signs of a dubious nexus between the former India pacer and two other Rajasthan Royals players — Ajit Chandila and Ankit Chavan — who were arrested for spot-fixing during the 2013 season.
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The Rajasthan Royals coach says that 24 hours before they were arrested on May 16, 2013, Sreesanth had been “sacked and send home for poor behaviour”. He further writes: “The reason for Sreesanth’s repeated poor behaviour, which amongst other things included blurting out in front of the team that Rahul Dravid (captain) and I (Upton) could go and f…k ourselves in response for dropping him, now made sense.”
However, when contacted, Sreesanth denied the incident ever took place, instead calling Upton a ‘liar’.
“He is such a big liar… I never said anything like that,” he said in a Whatsapp message.
Upton, speaking to The Indian Express six years after the alleged incident, claims Sreesanth’s outburst was out of place.
“If someone is saying Sreesanth is an emotional person and was really upset, I am not going to be saying that you can’t have an emotional outburst. But an outburst of that nature for being told that you are not going to play is an out-of-the-ordinary outburst. We tell 13 players (Royals squad strength is 24) every single IPL game for the last 7 seasons that you are not playing. Out of the 13, four have every reason to feel disappointed, but none of these reasons are enough to have that level of public outburst (that Sreesanth had). This suggests that there was something more to it.”
In the book, Upton goes on to suggest what that “something more” was. “In Mumbai … we had left him (Sreesanth) out of a game where alternative arrangements were in place. We had also dropped Chandila for that Mumbai game, and so these two apparently needed to enroll a third person to meet their fixing arrangements. That someone was Ankeet (Chavan).”
Delhi Police Special Cell’s 6,000-page chargesheet on the case has transcripts where Chandila seems to be explaining a ‘fix’ to Chavan. In a May 15, 2013 conversation, Chandila tells Chavan he needs to concede 12 or more runs in the over. In the game, Chavan goes on to concede 15 runs. At 8.19 pm, just after that Chavan over, Chandila makes a call to someone who the chargesheet identifies as a bookie. “Khush ho gaye sethji (You happy?),” he says.
After their arrest, Sreesanth, Chandila and Chavan were banned by BCCI for life. However, in 2015, the three cricketers, facing charges under the tough MCOCA law for organised crime, were discharged by a Delhi court. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court revoked Sreesanth’s life ban and asked the board to decide the fresh quantum of punishment for the player.
But Sreesanth said he never abused Dravid and Upton. “It’s really sad. Feeling really bad for Mr. Paddy Upton. If he wants this 30-second fame, he can have it. All I can say is I’ve always respected every individual I’ve played with and always will. I had high regards for him till date.It’s really disappointing to see this. I really hope he starts to at least respect himself and not sell himself to make other people happy,” he said.