The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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None at crease, Sourav to rescue

Cape Town, Jan. 5: Sourav Ganguly may have kept Steve Waugh waiting at the toss during that memorable 2001 series, but the former captain had no plans to hold up the third and final Test at pretty Newlands this morning.

For absolutely no fault of his, Sourav actually came close to becoming the first batsman in Test cricket’s 130-year history to be timed out. Thankfully, his CV won’t have such a dubious entry.

While all four umpires — Daryl Harper and Asad Rauf on the field, Marais Erasmus (TV/third) and Murray Brown (fourth) — erred by assuming a lot many things, it’s surprising that the Team India management was also caught napping.

The drama began when Wasim Jaffer got out to Makhaya Ntini on the second ball of the third over. That was at 10.43 am, 13 minutes after the start of Day IV, and just a couple of deliveries after Virender Sehwag’s dismissal.

In normal circumstances, that would’ve been the signal for regular No. 4 Sachin Tendulkar to walk out of the shadows. Instinctively, he headed for the stairs but was told by Brown that he could only bat after 10.48, to “compensate” for the 18 minutes he’d been off before stumps the previous evening.

Brown had, a few minutes earlier, “reminded” the Indian dressing room about it.

It was done late, yes, but it’s not clear whether Sachin was informed. According to Harper, the “reminder” was given solely to ensure there was no “misunderstanding”.

The senior Elite Panel umpire put it thus: “There are 42 laws, no more.... The players are responsible for their actions and ought to be aware.... The reminder was given to avoid a misunderstanding.... I certainly didn’t convey that to the Indians at the start of the (second) innings as I didn’t want them to have a negative mindset.”

Harper added: “I don’t know who keeps a note of these things in the Indian dressing room, but usually the managers do.” Indeed, managers do so in a professional set-up. Where the Indian team is concerned, that post is handed out as a favour.

With Sachin barred, V.V.S. Laxman should have gone out. The vice-captain, however, was either in the shower (Sourav’s explanation) or in the toilet wearing the abdominal guard (as a source pointed out)!

“There was chaos in the dressing room” is what The Telegraph’s source revealed, but coach Greg Chappell had the presence of mind to quickly ask Sourav, who’d been standing closest, to take Jaffer’s place.

“I was in my track suit and didn’t have the time to prepare... There was no time for thoughts, I had to rush,” Sourav said. He took guard six minutes after Jaffer’s exit, but did a grand job.

On the field, meanwhile, the South Africans were agitated. “What’s the rule' What’s the rule'” asked senior-most pro Shaun Pollock. In the midst of all that (the crowd had begun slow hand-clapping), Harper requested captain Graeme Smith to “uphold the spirit” of the game and not appeal for a timed out.

Smith agreed after it was explained why the circumstances had become “exceptional”. His attention was also drawn to New Zealand’s “poor example” on the recent Muttiah Muralidharan issue.

Sourav fell for 46, but not before crossing 200 runs (average of 42-plus) in his comeback series. His total of 214 is the highest for India and has given a reminder that he still has much to offer.

It’s taken for granted that Sourav is going to make his one-day comeback later this month.

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