New Delhi: Tainted Indian pacer S Sreesanth's ban for alleged spot-fixing will end next August, BCCI Ombudsman D K Jain has ordered, observing that the cricketer is well past his prime having already served six years.
After the order came, Sreesanth expressed his desire to play for Kerala in Ranji Trophy, while harbouring a far-fetched dream to once again don the national jersey.
Sreesanth, who was arrested by the Delhi Police on charges of spot-fixing during the 2013 IPL and was banned for life by the BCCI, challenged the punishment.
After the ban was overturned by the Supreme Court earlier this year, the BCCI referred the matter to its Ombudsman D K Jain, who, in turn, reduced it to seven years, the sanction period now ending in 2020.
"I am very happy with the decision. I would like to make a comeback to the Kerala Ranji team and contribute it to team's victory. I would start training from next month. Youngsters from Kerala are doing well and that's an inspiration," Sreesanth told reporters here.
However, his ambition to don the national colours seemed a bit impractical considering that Indian cricket has moved on since he last played international cricket eight years ago. By the time he is free to play, he will be well past 37 years.
"I hope I will be able to come back into the Indian Test team. I have taken 87 wickets in Test cricket. 13 more wickets are required to reach 100 wickets," he said.
The BCCI banned Sreesanth for life along with his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan for indulging in alleged spot-fixing in the IPL in August 2013 .
But on March 15 this year, the Supreme Court set aside the BCCI disciplinary committee's order.
Now, in an order passed on August 7, Jain said "ends of justice" would be met by making it a seven-year suspension and letting him play next year.
"...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," Jain reasoned in his order.
"... 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," Jain said in the order.
The BCCI, on February 28, told the apex court that the life ban imposed on Sreesanth was "fully sustainable in law" as he had "tried to influence" a match.
Sreesanth's lawyer countered the arguments and told the court that no spot-fixing took place during the IPL match and that allegations levelled against the cricketer were not substantiated by evidence.
Senior advocate Parag Tripathi, appearing for the BCCI, referred to the recorded telephonic conversations in the matter and told the court that it was clear that money was demanded and was "probably received" also.
He said there were allegations that Rs 10 lakh was paid to Sreesanth for conceding 14 runs in his second over in an Indian Premier League (IPL) match between the Rajasthan Royals and the Kings XI Punjab at Mohali in May 2013.
Sreesanth has all along maintained that the allegations are false and he is innocent.
Earlier, a single bench in the Kerala High Court had struck down the life ban imposed on the cricketer by the BCCI and also quashed all proceedings against him. After that, a division bench of the Kerala High Court restored the ban.
Sreesanth had moved the Supreme Court against the order.
The Kerala speedster turned up in 27 Tests, 53 ODIs and 10 T20 Internationals for India, claiming 169 wickets in all. He last played for India back in 2011.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)