Sreesanth has taken a big step towards a return to competitive cricket after a gap of close to eight years, as he was named in Kerala's squad for the 2020-21 edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, the national T20 tournament, which will start on January 10. Sanju Samson will lead the side, and Sachin Baby has been named the vice-captain.

Sreesanth, 37, whose BCCI ban for spot-fixing in the 2013 IPL ended earlier this year, had resumed training in June, including with the Kerala Under-23 team and a few senior players at a Kerala Cricket Association facility in Ernakulam. He subsequently found a spot in the 26-man list of probables for the T20 tournament, released by the KCA on December 15, which has since been trimmed to 20.

The Kerala squad included, apart from Samson, Baby and Sreesanth, prominent names like Robin Uthappa, Jalaj Saxena, Basil Thampi, Vishnu Vinod and Mohammed Azharudeen. The new faces in the team are those of Vathsal Govind Sharma, Sreeroop MP, Midhun PK and Rojith KG.

Kerala have been placed in Elite Group E in the tournament, along with Mumbai, Delhi, Andhra, Haryana and Puducherry, and will play all their group-stage matches in Mumbai. Their first match is on January 11 against Puducherry.

Sreesanth's ban - initially for life - had been revised to seven years in 2019 and officially ended in September this year, following which he had expressed a keenness to play competitive cricket again. Kerala coach Tinu Yohanan had told ESPNcricinfo in September that the door was open for a Sreesanth return, subject to his form and fitness.