With S Sreesanth looking set to push for a return to the Kerala side in Ranji Trophy next season, his state teammate Sachin Baby has thrown his weight behind the Indian pacer to come good.

Baby, who captained Kerala during a successful 2019 campaign before the team’s fortunes tapered off in the previous season, said Sreesanth remains an unplayable bowler going by what he has seen during practice sessions.

Sreesanth’s ban for alleged spot-fixing will end soon after the Board of Control for Cricket in India Ombudsman DK Jain had ordered last year to reduce the period to seven years. Initially, the BCCI imposed a life ban on Sreesanth in August 2013 along with his Rajasthan Royals teammates Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan for their involvement in controversial spot-fixing episode that rocked the Indian Premier League.

“I am really very happy because he is a brother to me. For the last seven years, I have been waiting for him to come back into the Kerala side and perform for the team,” Baby said in a chat show Homerun with AV with sports commentator Arun Venugopal.

The 30-year-old left-handed batsman was replaced as Kerala captain by Jalaj Saxena at the end of the team’s Ranji Trophy campaign in the 2019-’20 season. But during his days of leading the side, Baby said he took advice from Sreesanth.

“Even during the last two years when he wasn’t playing and I was the captain, he used to tell me what should be done with the Kerala side and with the players, what our goal ought to be – to play really well at the highest standard,” Baby sauid.

“Whatever he would tell me, I would pass the message along to my team-mates. So when people think I am expressing something, it’s actually a case of my sharing something that Sree tells me,” he added.

“He was very keen for the Kerala team and has had a big hand in whatever Kerala cricket has achieved. His prayers and commitment are always there with the Kerala team. The Kerala probables have been announced and he is there in the probables, so I am really very happy.”

A video of Sreesanth bowling to Baby went viral on social media in October last year. The pacer has been out of active cricket for a while but Baby said he is still tough to face.

“Whenever he bowls to me, I always get out because of his swing and pace. He is still unplayable and we are all waiting [for his return to competitive cricket]. After this lockdown, if the ground is ready, we are planning to play a game. Match fitness is something very important. It’s rainy season now in Kerala. After July, we are planning to get [hold of] a ground and play a match,” he added.

New Kerala coach Tinu Yohanan said fitness was going to be a key parameter to Sreesanth’s return.

“Sreesanth will be considered for this year’s Ranji Trophy. We are looking forward to having Sreesanth playing for Kerala again. Everyone in Kerala is also looking forward to that,” Yohannan, also a former India pacer, told PTI.

“His [Sreesanth’s] ban will be lifted in September. The good thing is that there is time for him to get ready ... he is working hard on his game and his fitness,” the Kerala coach added.

Baby echoed the coach’s thoughts: “That’s why I said we have to work on his match fitness. Now we are working really hard on his bowling. He has been bowling really well in the nets and getting wickets in the nets. We are waiting for the rainy season to end so that we can get to the ground.”