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Sourav fined S. Africa series

Calcutta, Nov. 14: Sourav Ganguly will have no role in the series versus South Africa as he has been banned for two Tests.

This punishment seems unprecedented.

Sourav is going to appeal against Match Referee Clive Lloyd's decision, but the Seventies' superstar followed the rule book and it's unlikely that the International Cricket Council (ICC) will reverse his decision.

The appeal, allowed by the ICC's code of conduct, must be lodged within 24 hours of a 'formal communication'. Sourav's Team India replacement, therefore, hasn't been named. Frontrunners, though, are Yuvraj Singh and Dheeraj Subhas Jadhav.

As captain, Sourav has been penalised for the poor over rate in yesterday's disastrous Platinum Jubilee Cup face-off with Pakistan. While Lloyd and the umpires have contended time was wasted, Sourav intends arguing otherwise: 'Time lost, not wasted.'

Lloyd gave an 'allowance' of 24 minutes ' for stoppages owing to Salman Butt's cramps, cleaning boot studs and frequent drying of the ball because of dew ' but ruled five overs were still short.

Unfortunately, 10 months ago in Sydney, where too Lloyd was Match Referee, the Indians were guilty of being three overs short in a one-dayer versus Australia.

Anything above two overs is a Level 2 offence and in breach of the code's 'spirit of the game' provision.

The code specifies that any repeat of a Level 2 offence, within 12 months, raises the second violation to Level 3 and an automatic ban.

Technically, that's upgrading.

The minimum penalty is two Tests, with the maximum four. Had India's immediate engagements been ODIs, Sourav would have missed at least four matches.

Now, he's out of the Kanpur and Calcutta Tests.

Lloyd, one understands, asked for video footage of the Pakistan innings late last night itself and, then, decided on a disciplinary hearing at 11 am today.

According to sources, Sourav and coach John Wright (who also attended the hearing) sought leniency but Lloyd said his 'hands were tied'.

Later (after intimating the ICC), he informally told Wright that Sourav has to sit out the South Africa series. One learns he ended his conversation with 'I'm sorry'

Sourav himself wasn't aware he would be banned as the overs short had crossed two. That bad news awaited him was, in fact, conveyed by The Telegraph as he headed towards his Ford Endeavour after the hearing and a one-to-one with Wright.

The captain was shattered, paused to say something, but changed his mind and drove home.

As for Lloyd, he left for Dhaka en route to Dubai and Manchester and, so, couldn't be contacted by somebody in the Board of Control for Cricket in India wanting to request a 'less harsh punishment'.

Sourav has already missed four Tests this year through injuries and, each time, the captaincy has gone to Rahul Dravid.

Being banned for Tests is a first, but Sourav has been out of three ODIs after getting disciplined. Twice ' prior to Rajkot in December 2000 and once in Colombo in July 2001 ' he got punished as the regular captain.

Meanwhile, Pakistan vice-captain Yousuf Youhana (75 per cent of match fee) and India's Irfan Pathan (50 per cent) have been fined for misconduct.

That hearing (again at a city hotel) was held at 1.30 am. Surely, a record.

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