Except for 'immune' reporters aboard the packed Flight 9W 252, the rest had their day made. Other than India's 60th Republic Day, the occasion was the cricket team's trip from Chennai to Colombo for the five-match one-day series and a T20 match against the emerald nation.
A lady literally jumped out of her seat when fielding coach Robin Singh came on board followed by Suresh Raina. "Is the rest of the team here?" she had barely managed to ask when Sachin Tendulkar occupied a first-row aisle seat. The lady may have been stunned into silence but Tendulkar's arrival triggered off frenetic activity. Armed with camera phones, passengers tried their best to bridge the class divide by making a beeline to the entrance of the business class, ignoring the captain's requests to return to their seats.
Thankfully, the delay was not significant and order was restored after the crew assured the passengers that they would get ample time for photographs and autographs once they had landed.
But despite that, the excitement refused to subside during the hour-long flight. Just before landing, a crewmember got a flight attendant to click him with the players and then got them to sign a bat.
On their part, the players did what they generally don't --- oblige --- and then went back to doing their stuff, listening to music.
Tendulkar was seen engaged in a long discussion with coach Gary Kirsten, seated next to him. Yusuf Pathan kept peering out of the window while Ishant Sharma spent a considerable time trying to get some extra space for those long legs. After touching base, the teams went to the hotel where skippers Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mahela Jayawardene addressed the media in the evening. The Indians then visited the Indian High Commission before setting off for Dambulla, venue of the first match on Wednesday.
Both captains brushed aside suggestions that the players would take the series, hurriedly put in place after India cancelled the tour to Pakistan, lightly. "The boards may have very friendly relations but on the field it's always serious stuff," said Jayawardene.
While nodding in agreement, Dhoni seemed to be preoccupied after an organiser informed him that it had rained in Dambulla on Sunday.