Santhakumaran Sreesanth, in an action picture from his playing days. Image Credit: AFP file

Mumbai: Shanthakumaran Sreesanth, who will be eligible for selection into the Indian cricket team from September 2020 after his life ban has been reduced to seven years by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), promised to prove himself once again and get back into the Indian team.

Speaking to Gulf News over the phone after the verdict, Sreesanth said: “I know I have exactly one year now to work hard. All my life I have proved myself and earned my place in any team, be it Kerala or the Indian team. So I will do that once again.”

He was initially banned for life on charges of spot-fixing in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL), though the charges could not be proved and it was in March this year when the Supreme Court lifted the ban.

Asked whether age would be a hindrance as he will be 37 by September next year — not to speak of the competition for the fast bowlers’ slot — Sreesanth said: “I believe age is only a number and I will never allow it to affect me. Remember that age makes one matured and experienced too. So I will see it that way and see me as only in my 30s.”

How is Sreesanth planning to go about his comeback then? “Thanks to my foray into movies that I have remained fit. My dad, who believed that I will return to cricket, had always told me to focus on my fitness too. I feel fit and I am fit.”

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Now that he returns to cricket, will he have time for acting? “Yes, I have always been a hard worker and I feel 24 hours is more than enough for me to ensure that I get time for acting too. My idol is Hollywood actor Dwayne Johnson, known as the ‘The Rock.’ [He was a professional wrestler and pursued an acting career too]. Hope I can do like what he did.”

Looking ahead at his target, the Kerala speedster said: “My aim is to play in the final of the World Test Championship at Lord’s in 2021. I am hopeful India will reach the final and I want to be in the team and play a role in the team’s triumph.”

Does Sreesanth feel that the decision, if it came a bit earlier, would have helped? “I don’t want to look back...I will only look ahead now. I thank all those who backed me during my tough times.”

Life had been tough for the tainted cricketer for the last six years, but Sreesanth has a message of hope for all sportsmen. “Never give up is my message — this is for all struggling or neglected sportsmen. I never gave up and that is why I am here.”