|Sushmita Sen and Sourav at a party in Calcutta on Thursday. Picture by Pabitra Das
Calcutta, Nov. 25: Sourav Ganguly had barely stepped off the airport escalator tonight when a passenger from another flight posed the question of the season: 'Are you playing at the Eden'
Grinning, the Team India captain repeated what he'd said in New Delhi not many hours earlier ' 'I hope to, yes'.'
Actually, Sourav has been buoyed after the three-and-a-half-hour hearing (via a teleconference) by appeals commissioner Tim Castle.
The teleconference, incidentally, had forced breaks as the link was briefly lost twice.
'Mr Castle was understanding and friendly' He allowed me to have my say' His attitude has lifted my confidence,' Sourav told The Telegraph, tired somewhat after all the travelling in the last 24 hours.
Specifically, he is hopeful of featuring in the second and final Test against South Africa, in the city, from Sunday.
Sourav, it may be recalled, has challenged the two-Test ban imposed by Clive Lloyd, match referee during the November 13 Platinum Jubilee Cup ODI at the Eden.
Appointed by the International Cricket Council (ICC), Castle put the hearing on hold till after Test No. 1, in Kanpur, and is expected to give his ruling by tomorrow evening.
'We should hear from Mr Castle within 24 hours after the hearing,' informed an ICC spokesman, when reached for a comment in London.
The Code of Conduct empowers the appeals commissioner to increase/decrease the punishment or simply maintain status quo.
The hearing began at noon, with Sourav, coach John Wright --- added to the defence team almost at the last minute --- Siddhartha Shankar Ray and Usha Nath Banerjee sitting in the Taj Palace's board room.
Castle linked up from Wellington, while Lloyd did so from Miami (not London, as anticipated). The ICC's in house lawyer, Urvasi Naidoo, recorded proceedings from London.
Given that everybody has been barred from divulging anything, details weren't available.
However, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) counsel, Banerjee, did emphasise that Sourav's case is 'strong' both on facts and in law.
'In our opinion, the punishment has been unfair,' he asserted, when contacted in the capital.
Significantly, Banerjee added: 'Mr Castle acted as the perfect judge' Neutral and patient'
Sourav and the BCCI have consistently maintained time was lost (largely owing to dew and injuries) and not wasted. The poor over rate, therefore, wasn't intentional.
[Lloyd held the Indians guilty of being five overs short and, as the captain, Sourav had to pay.]
Also, that the excessive dew be equated with a natural calamity and the Team India captain's appeal upheld.
Eventually, how well Sourav's counsel Ray (a former Union law minister) batted is what could make the difference.
Footnote: Former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya too was around during the tele-conference. His role, however, was limited to 'monitoring' every word.