Strange rules give Ganguly a breather

Published: Friday, November 19, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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New Delhi:The International Cricket Council (ICC) has often been criticised for its whimsical decisions, but the flip-flop over Sourav Ganguly's two-match ban has reduced it to a laughing stock.

The Indian captain was handed the unprecedented ban by ICC match referee Clive Lloyd following his team's slow over-rate during the six-wicket defeat by Pakistan in a one-day international at Eden Gardens, Calcutta, on November 14.

But when Ganguly appealed against the ban, it astonishingly paved the way for him to take part in the first of the two home Tests against South Africa starting in Kanpur on Saturday.

The ICC's Code of Conduct allows cricketers to continue playing while their case is heard and a statement issued by the governing body on Thursday said Ganguly was "free to take his place in the first Test against South Africa".

Clearly, it is an advantage to challenge the authority of the match referee.

Imagine a captain being hauled up for misdemeanour in a World Cup quarter-final and slapped with a suspension for the next two matches -- the semi-final and the final.

No worries. All he has to do is to appeal against the ban and find himself playing both games.

India will be happy to have their captain back for at least the Kanpur Test, but arch-rivals Pakistan are not.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan was on Friday quoted by the 'Mid-Day' newspaper as saying the ICC's decision to allow Ganguly to play was an "insult" to match referee Lloyd.

"It is an insult to the former West Indies captain," Khan told the Bombay-based tabloid.

"Look, rules are rules. What is the point of making laws and placing referees when the ICC overrules them as and when it wishes?"

ICC rules prescribe that appeals by the offending player have to be disposed of in a week's time by a commissioner appointed by it.

But the seven-day deadline is easier said than followed.

Tim Castle, a lawyer in distant New Zealand who was appointed commissioner to adjudicate on Ganguly's appeal, had -- by the ICC's own admission -- not received the video footage of the November 14 match till Thursday evening.

So Castle decided to hold a teleconference with Ganguly on November 25 -- a day after the scheduled finish of the first Test -- before making a decision.

Match referee Lloyd handed Ganguly the unprecedented suspension for India's slow over-rate which saw the day-night international finish an hour behind schedule.

Lloyd gave an allowance of 22 minutes for stoppages owing to on-field injuries and frequent drying of the ball because of the heavy dew on the ground, but ruled that India still fell five overs short.

Ganguly, who had been earlier fined for a similar offence, contended he had not deliberately slowed down the game.

But PCB boss Khan was unimpressed.

"Of course, there was a lot of dew on the outfield," Khan told 'Mid-Day'. "Besides some players needed assistance after suffering from cramps."

"Lloyd is one of the most lenient referees in the game. He must have considered all the circumstances before taking the decision."

Lloyd himself has not spoken after Ganguly challenged his decision.

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