|Sachin Tendulkar with Sunil Gavaskar in Kanpur. (PTI)
Lucknow, Nov. 18: 'Much of the load is off my shoulders... I'm relieved,' Sourav Ganguly reacted tonight moments after learning that the International Cricket Council (ICC) appeals commissioner, Tim Castle, had taken the extraordinary step of deferring judgment.
Sourav, therefore, is going to lead Team India in the first Test against South Africa, in neighbouring Kanpur, from Saturday. He arrived there this afternoon.
However, it's only after the Wellington-based Castle's teleconference with Sourav on November 25, a day after the opening Test ends, will it be known if he can lead in the second and final one as well ' at the Eden from November 28.
'Now, I'm hopeful of being cleared totally,' Sourav, banned for two Tests (on account of the team being five overs short in the Platinum Jubilee Cup) by match referee Clive Lloyd, told The Telegraph when contacted on his cell.
Besides a prayer, Sourav's first move (and a quick one) was to fax his 'acceptance' of the appeals commissioner's decision to Urvasi Naidoo, the ICC's in-house lawyer. That went from the team hotel around 8.45 pm.
The rules, guiding the Code of Conduct, stipulate an appeal must be disposed of within a week of a commissioner being appointed.
Castle came into the frame on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after Sourav's 'intent to appeal' was forwarded to the ICC.
The captain, though, has made one request: Owing to the travel arrangements after Kanpur, the teleconference 'may please' be scheduled after 8 pm (IST).
But, then, that's going to be an awkward time for the appeals commissioner....
Sourav, by the way, thanked Castle (through Ms Naidoo) for allowing him to 'concentrate better' on the forthcoming Test.
According to the ICC's general manager (corporate affairs), Brendon McClements, Castle called and said he favoured putting his decision on hold. After all, he was yet to receive a video recording of the Pakistan innings.
That cassette and 'documents' were couriered to him from London on Tuesday itself.
'Mr Castle pointed out he wished to first talk with Sourav and added that wouldn't be possible before Saturday morning. Given the series begins that very day, he preferred waiting till after the Test,' McClements informed.
The ICC went along with Castle as, essentially, the appeals commissioner is now the boss. So far, he hasn't indicated if Lloyd too will feature in a teleconference.
It's possible, of course, that Castle did get somewhat influenced by a 'suggestion' from somebody important in the ICC that he 'should avoid doing anything' to disturb Sourav just hours before the start of an important series.
Earlier, the Board of Control for Cricket in India had 'approached' that gentleman.
Incidentally, Sourav's appeal proper ' an 'improvement', as a source put it, on his intent to appeal sent on Monday evening ' has been received by the ICC. Castle is going to be the eventual recipient.
Meanwhile, with Sourav making a comeback after two Tests, Mohammed Kaif will sit out. Also out of the reckoning is Ashish Nehra.
The toss-up, as of now, is between Murali Kartik and Irfan Pathan.
If all three spinners are played, Pathan's comeback (like the captain, even he missed the last two Tests through injury) won't be at the Green Park.