Australia v India, 1st Test, Brisbane, 3rd day December 6, 2003

Ganguly in danger of being suspended for slow over-rates

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Sourav Ganguly: has a problem with the higher authorities
© AFP

Even if the rain made a result impossible at the Gabba, India, despite their sensational showing on Friday, would perhaps be happy to walk away with a draw and their dignity, but they will live the next days in the fear of their captain being put out of action for the next Test in Adelaide. In the second Test against New Zealand at Ahmedabad earlier this year, Sourav Ganguly became the first player in the history of cricket to be docked a couple of runs for ignoring the umpire's warning about running on the danger area of the pitch. Now he runs the risk of being the first Test captain to be suspended for slow over-rates.

Admittedly, it will be a drastic step for the match referee to consider, but Mike Proctor will be well within his rights to impose a one-match suspension on Ganguly if India are unable to substantially reduce their deficit, which currently stands at 10. "Such decisions are always taken at the end of the match," Proctor told Wisden Cricinfo last night, "I have had a word with Ganguly and the team management and I will be watching them closely."

This is not the first time the Indians have fallen foul of Proctor on this count. He had fined the entire team 35% of their match fee for slow over-rates in the Hamilton Test during India's tour of New Zealand earlier this year. While he would not accuse India of slowing down deliberately, Proctor said it was a serious issue. While the Indian management sought to play down the issue, a senior official admitted privately that the matter was of concern to the Indian camp.

The new playing conditions of the ICC lay a greater responsibility on the captain for any tardiness on the field. While players can be penalized 5% of the match fee for every over bowled short, the captain is liable for a 10% penalty. If the shortfall is more than five overs, the fine is raised to 10% for regular players and 20% for the captain. At end of the first day, Ganguly was liable for a penalty exceeding his match fee, giving rise to speculations that if the trend continued Proctor would be left with no choice but to hand out a one-match suspension. A shortfall of more than five overs amounts to a Level Two offence under the new ICC Code, which translates to "bringing the game in to disrepute."

While that description can be challenged, it is undeniable that the Indians were markedly lethargic on the field on Thursday, with the wicket keeper and the slip fielders changing ends gingerly. The contrast was remarkable following Proctor's warning. The fielders sprinted so quickly between the overs that a televsion producer was overheard remarking that it was costing his channel considerable advertising revenue.

Sambit Bal, editor of Wisden Asia Cricket magazine and Wisden Cricinfo in India, will be following the Indian team throughout this Test series.