The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Weight lifts off Sourav shoulders
- Ban overturned, captain readies for Eden Test with laptop analysis

Calcutta, Nov. 26: Sourav Ganguly was sweating in the Taj health club when Urvasi Naidoo, the International Cricket Council lawyer, called around 5 pm to inform him that his two-Test ban had been quashed.

The punishment was the handiwork of Clive Lloyd, match referee in the November 13 Platinum Jubilee Cup ODI against Pakistan. Despite multiple hold-ups, Lloyd held Sourav responsible for India being five overs short.

The captain got banned as that 'breach' was repeated in less than a year.

Had circumstances been different, Sourav perhaps would have leapt with joy after Naidoo's call. As it turned out, trainer Greg King didn't even give him a break.

Sourav, however, managed to call wife Dona and give the 'great news'. If the ban itself was unprecedented, appeals commissioner Tim Castle's ruling falls pretty much in the same category.

Later, after an extended session (which also featured Gautam Gambhir) in the gym, the captain told The Telegraph he 'felt light' on the shoulders. 'I'm not treating Mr Castle's decision as a victory' I'm just happy I'm going to continue captaining and will be playing at the Eden,' Sourav added.

Incidentally, he borrowed computer analyst S. Ramakrishnan's laptop and, on reaching home, busied himself with an 'analysis' of the drawn first Test versus South Africa, in Kanpur.

The second and final Test begins on Sunday and barrister Castle's verdict ' explained over 30-plus pages ' should help the Cricket Association of Bengal which is facing an indifferent paying public.

Asked whether he had actually been hopeful after yesterday's hearing (via a teleconference), Sourav said 'yes, of course.'

While the captain's own defence must have been impressive, what probably turned the tables is the line taken by his counsel, former Bengal chief minister and one-time Union law minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray.

Apparently, Ray contended that the Code of Conduct, which guides match referees, didn't specifically list slow over rate as a penalty-inviting offence. And, so, charging Sourav wasn't in order.

It seems Ray (and Board of Control for Cricket in India counsel Usha Nath Banerjee) argued that as the intention wasn't mala fide, the spirit of the game wasn't violated. Nor, for that matter, was cricket brought into disrepute.

Moreover, Ray is learnt to have pointed out that Sourav didn't have anything to gain by slowing the over rate: More dew, after all, would affect his own team more.

It helped, by the way, that coach John Wright was added to the defence line-up.

Now, the ICC probably has no choice but to amend the Code of Conduct, giving it clarity and making exceptions for extraordinary conditions.

For the record, Castle had this to say: 'On any analysis, the delay of nearly an hour to the finish of a 50-over ODI, beyond its scheduled time, is out of an acceptable range'

'I am of the opinion that the circumstances were particularly unusual and a large number of them conspired to cause the delays'

Lloyd's reaction isn't known --- it's unlikely, in any case, that a comment is going to be made --- but Sourav described Castle as being 'wonderful.'

Both yesterday, during the hearing, and in quashing the ban.

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