Sreesanth has a rigorous training schedule these days.
He wakes up in the morning, practises yoga and meditation, heads to the nets for a four-hour bowling and fielding sessions, followed by a two-hour muscle strengthening and toning work out at the gym.
He also finds time to attend online mental conditioning classes by Tim Grover, who worked with the likes of basketball giants Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, three days in a week.
"I want to be match-fit before I play for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy. But I feel as if I am going to make my debut," he said.
Cricket fans have been missing Sreesanth's deadly out swingers, sledging, aggressive appealing and insane on-field celebrations for the past seven years after the Delhi Police arrested him on May 16, 2013 on charges of fixing a high-profile Indian Premier League match between his team Rajasthan Royals and Mumbai Indians.
The charges were eventually dropped by a Delhi trial court on July 25, 2015.
Immediately after his arrest, he was put in Tihar Jail in New Delhi for 27 days.
Board of Control for Cricket in India, the supreme administrative body for cricket in India, had banned him for life. The board didn't allow him to play despite the aquittal. This forced Sreesanth to continue his legal fight. He challenged the life ban in the Kerala High Court and the Supreme Court. In August 2019, the board's Ombudsman Justice (retd) DK Jain commuted the ban to seven years.
Waiting for September
Sreesanth is now eagerly waiting for September, when his ban expires, to put on his whites and rattle the opponents with his swing and seam. The Kerala Cricket Association (KCA) recently hinted that it would consider him for this season's domestic Ranji Trophy cricket tournament.
A good season may help him regain his position in the India squad as had happened 16 summers ago. A hat-trick against Himachal Pradesh in a Ranji match – the first by a Kerala bowler – in 2004 gave him the Challenger Trophy (a tournament involving domestic players) ticket. An excellent show – seven-wicket haul in the tournament – earned him the India cap for the one-day international series against Sri Lanka at home.
The KCA's assurance has given Sreesanth a chance to focus on his obsession, cricket.
Struggling to pay power bills
This was not the case during the past seven years. He had tried different things. He acted in movies, participated in television reality shows and even contested the Kerala Assembly election on a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket in 2016, which he eventually lost to a Congress candidate.
For him, movies and reality shows were 'bread and butter jobs'. "A cricketer who was struggling to pay his electricity bills had to do those jobs," he said.
The entertainment industry essentially helped him remain in the limelight.
He cultivated a lot of friends in Bollywood and other regional language movies.
He has acted in four movies so far. He made his debut with the Hindi movie Aksar in 2017. Malayalam film Team 5 happened in 2017 followed by Hindi movie Cabaret and Kannada flick Kempe Gowda, both in 2019.
During this period, he looked like a bodybuilder.
Cricket Monthly's Jardod Kimber, who interviewed him in October 2019, wrote that Sreesanth's neck muscles were those of an angry gym man and not that of a bowler.
Depression & Sushant Singh's death
One of his friends at the gym in Mumbai was Bollywood star Sushant Singh Rajput, who died by suicide in Mumbai early this month, believed to be because of depression.
The news shattered Sreesanth and it reminded him of his own 'period of depression'.
"I had been through that phase after my arrest. I had almost committed suicide 3 - 4 times. Luckily, I could overcome that phase," said Sreesanth.
Their last meeting was in Mumbai in February this year. "He used to tell me that you are Sreesanth, but you never looked 'Shant' (calm). I am Sushant and I am Shant," Sreesanth remembered.
Following Sushant's death, Sreesanth has been pleading with people who are undergoing depression not to take their lives. "Please don't do it. You cannot end life because you haven't got enough opportunities. Please wait. Your time will come," he said.
What prevented Sreesanth from taking the extreme step, according to him, was the support of his family and well wishers. "When I reached my home town of Kochi after getting the bail, people consoled me. Their faith kept me going," he said.
He had found many ways to overcome the agony. Bodybuilding and movies were just two.
Tryst with music
Not many know about his tryst with music, which he describes a 'master healer'.
He learnt the nuances of piano and music composition with the help of his playback singer brother-in-law Madhu Balakrishnan. Later, he set up a studio at his house and engrossed himself in music composing.
Now, he is ready to release six songs – one in Hindi, two in Tamil and three in Malayalam – coinciding with his first class match re-appearance.
"Most of the songs are sung by Madhu chettan," he said.
He said he had composed a song as a dedication to his mother during his Tihar days. "I did it when I missed my mother so badly," he said.
The distress period also reinvigorated the reader in him, he said. “I don't just read books, but I take notes from them and keep it handy for reference," he said.
One of his recent reads was Tim S Grover's 'Relentless'.
The books have influenced him so much so that he is now planning to write a motivational book. "The 100-page English book is all about motivation. I will spice it up with anecdotes from my life," he said.
With such a varied life-surviving experiences under his belt, one would wonder whether Sreesanth will continue to be aggressive on the field.
Put that question to him, and Sreesanth will reply with a punch dialogue from a 2007 Mammootty-starrer action movie 'Big B', a Kochi don: "Bilal pazhaya Bilal thanne."
Roughly translated, Bilal retains his clout.