Edited Excerpts from the interview
A tough phase of your life seems to be over. How do you look back on those dark days?
The last 26 months were very difficult for me both as a human being and a sportsperson. Now I am relieved to be free of all those corruption charges. Truth finally emerged the mightier. I thank my family, friends and fans for their overwhelming support and for standing by me during a most difficult time. I am happier because my friends and relatives stand vindicated from the shame that they have had to endure because of me. When I was booked in the ipl matchfixing case, these people bore the brunt of a lot of mockery and ridicule. Many of them living abroad texted and phoned me to say they are being constantly pestered by their friends because of the fate that had befallen me. Now they are the happiest souls thinking of me. I consider this the most successful stage in my life, even more than winning the World Cup. Everyone has to go through ups and downs, but the situation I faced was one of the worst. I thank god for finally making me free.
Did you expect a verdict in your favour? What was going through your mind when the judge read it out?
Nothing was going through my mind. It was blank. I was praying to god. Even minutes before the verdict was announced, I was seriously thinking of quitting the game — such was the trauma and pain I have had to endure. With two-and-a-half precious years gone, it was quite discouraging for me. I could not think positively. By god’s grace, everything went well and I am free. I think everything in my life happened at the right time and so did the judgment. I am thankful to the Indian judicial system.
Did you think you were being framed in the case?
I believe I was targeted in the case, I don’t know why. There were many teams and many players. Maybe it was because some of them thought I am an easy target. The main allegation against me was that as per an agreement with the matchfixers, I gave away 13 runs in an over and wore a towel as a signal to the fixers while bowling. Anyone who knows me is well aware of my superstitions. It was not the first time I wore a towel or wristband. I have done so many times. While I was playing for the Kochi Tuskers, I wore different wristbands. I was framed in this case. I do not want to go much deeper into the past.
Who do you think is behind the case?
I don’t know. Whoever it is, I am least concerned about them. I do not want to go after anybody.
How did you cope with life in Tihar Jail?
Those were the hardest days of my life. I was arrested and escorted to the jail like any other culprit. The police treated me like a terrorist. It was really a disgraceful situation. Being a proud Indian cricketer, I felt ashamed of the situation I was in. The mental trauma I underwent is beyond words, and I only stopped crying when I got bail on the 27th day. Even after that, I lived a life almost completely locked up in my room. Even amidst the adversities, the strong urge to play for Team India kept my hopes intact. I trained rigorously during this period and kept my body and mind fit. I cannot continue without mentioning my friends from the film fraternity, whose immense help and support helped me to fight all the odds.
After being booked, many stories surfaced regarding your female acquaintances. It was during this that you got married. What was your wife’s response?
Definitely she was my unflinching supporter. We knew each other since 2007, and all these years she has supported me. Her family too stood by me. It would have been easy for them to object to our relationship and shun me once I was booked and arrested. But they tried to understand us, and supported us. My marriage took place last September and my wife’s whole family flew from Jaipur to Kochi to take part in the marriage.
I can say quite confidently that our relationship is sincere and honest. We have become one after fighting many odds. It has resemblance to movies like 1942: A Love Story and Earth: 1947. I am highly indebted to her and her family for their support and care. When I went to hear the verdict on Saturday, I took a dress of my daughter with me. There is a belief in her family that if you carry the dress first worn by your girl child, that will bring positive things to your life. The belief proved right and my daughter has become my lucky mascot.