The BCCI ombudsman, Justice (Retd) DK Jain has reduced former India fast bowler S Sreesanth’s ban to seven years, which will expire on September 13, 2020. The 36-year-old was originally banned for life for his alleged involvement in the 2013 IPL spot-fixing scandal. In March this year, the Supreme Court, however, had “set aside” his life ban, asking the BCCI to “reconsider” and “revisit” the length of any fresh ban. Accordingly, the case went to the ombudsman, who reduced the ban, taking note of the ‘mitigating circumstances’ under Article 6 that deals with ‘Sanctions’.
“Mr Sreesanth is already facing a ban for almost a period of six years now, which bars him from playing Cricket or participating in any event, with which the BCCI is, directly or indirectly, associated. Even otherwise, for Mr Sreesanth, who is now in his late thirties, his prime years as a Cricketer, particularly as a fast bowler may already be over.
“Bearing in mind, all these factors, I am of the view that banning Mr Sreesanth from participating in any kind of commercial Cricket or from associating with any activities of the BCCI or its affiliates, for a period of seven years with effect from 13.09.2013, i.e. the date from which, the period of ban imposed by the Disciplinary Committee had commenced, will meet the ends of justice,” Justice Jain wrote in his order.
Sreesanth reacted with delight. “I am 36 now and next year I will be 37. I have 87 Test wickets and my aim is I want to finish my career with 100 Test wickets. I am confident that I can return to the Indian Test team and always wanted to play under Virat Kohli,” he said at Kochi.
In its submission before the ombudsman, the cricket board, represented by its chief executive Rahul Johri and the counsel/legal team, mentioned about Sreesanth’s “erratic behaviour” on and off the field, when he was playing. The BCCI, however, couldn’t bring on record any sanction that had been imposed on the bowler for his behaviour.
In 2008, after an IPL match between Mumbai Indians and Kings XI Punjab, Harbhajan Singh slapped Sreesanth, notwithstanding the fact that the two were teammates at the 2007 World T20, which India won. Sreesanth’s on-field antics and sledging reportedly infuriated the off-spinner. Last year, former South Africa fast bowler Andre Nel had spoken about how he wanted to hit Sreesanth “on the head” during the 2006 India-South Africa Test series.
In his order, Justice Jain stated: “Although the BCCI has referred to his erratic behaviour, both on and off the field, with fellow players, but nothing has been brought on record by the BCCI to show that any sanction was imposed on him in the past. On the contrary, he was regularly participating in the national and international matches.”
The cricket board also failed to successfully argue that Sreesanth’s alleged spot-fixing offence during the 2013 IPL damaged the commercial value of the tournament. The spot-fixing and betting scandal, though, was the reason why Pepsi prematurely had terminated its IPL title sponsorship deal in 2015.
The 2013 IPL spot-fixing gate triggered an administrative upheaval in the BCCI, which eventually brought the cricket board under the Lodha reforms ambit.
A three-member BCCI disciplinary committee comprising then BCCI president N Srinivasan and vice-presidents, Arun Jaitley and Niranjan Shah, had banned Sreesanth for life after he, along with his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, was arrested by Delhi Police for his alleged link with bookmakers during the 2013 IPL.
The Supreme Court in its order back in March, however, had said the BCCI disciplinary committee didn’t “advert to the aggravating and mitigating factors as enumerated in Articles 6.1.1 and 6.1.2 of the Code” and that the sanction was “not in accordance with the Code itself”.
In his submission before the ombudsman, Sreesanth’s counsel Krishna Mohan K Menon highlighted 14 ‘mitigating factors’ including the bowler’s economy rate – 9 – in the May 9, 2013 IPL match against Kings XI Punjab at Mohali. Menon argued that it was just a shade higher than Sreesanth’s career economy rate – 8.5 – in the IPL.
The BCCI, on the other hand, highlighted five ‘aggravating circumstances’, stating, among others, “There is a clear evidence of Mr Sreesanth having received a sum of Rs 10,00,000 (Rs 10 lakh) in lieu of the offence committed”…
Justice Jain agreed with the BCCI’s ‘zero tolerance’ approach to corruption, but noted: “Nevertheless, as observed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the Remand Order, zero tolerance approach cannot dilute consideration of the relevant factors while imposing sanction under Article 6 of the Code.”