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November pain for players

After the Mumbai terror attacks, all the players and support staff of both the Indian and England teams were holed up at the Mayfair Hotel in Bhubaneshwar for several hours as gun-toting commandos in bullet-proof vests kept a strict vigil, reports Soumyajit Pattnaik.

cricket Updated: Nov 27, 2008 23:02 IST
Soumyajit Pattnaik

Southpaw Suresh Raina turned 22 on Thursday, but this is one lacklustre birthday he wouldn't like to remember for long. Utter confusion reigned supreme at the hotel where he has been staying along with his colleagues from the India and England cricket teams for the last three days. After the Mumbai terror attacks, all the players and support staff of both the teams were holed up at the Mayfair Hotel for several hours as gun-toting commandos in bullet-proof vests kept a strict vigil and refused to allow players to venture out unless they obtained permission from the city's police commissioner.

Luckily for Raina, he was able to cut the cake around midnight, soon after the triumphant Team India returned from the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack after taking a 5-0 lead against England. However, since daybreak, Mumbai terror attacks have turned everything topsy-turvy here. At around 1.30 pm, Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan and Yuvraj Singh stepped out of the hotel and got into a waiting Mercedes to attend a private lunch along with an Orissa Cricket Association (OCA) official. The trio appeared relaxed, though Sachin refused to say anything on the security concerns or on whether he would be heading for Mumbai soon. It was presumed that the Indian team would stay back as Sachin and Co. had already decided to go out of the hotel for lunch. However, just as the Mercedes' engine started revving in the hotel porch, an officer in khaki politely told the OCA official who was at the steering wheel to turn off the engine and step out of the car. Bhubaneswar's additional commissioner of police S.K. Nath and DCP Himansu Lal then asked the OCA official whether he had the permission from the police commissioner to take the stars out to a public place. When the official replied in the negative, he was curtly told to tell Sachin and others to return to the hotel. The trio paid heed and obliged.

Just before Sachin & the rest were stopped, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir were stopped from boarding their flight to Delhi because speculation was rife that Delhi too was under attack; the police didn't want to take a chance. The duo had left the hotel around 1 pm under heavy police escort but returned barely 15 minutes later to the hotel. It was only after Bhubaneswar DCP Himansu Lal confirmed that there was no truth in those rumours were the two openers allowed to go to the airport again.

After Sehwag and Gambhir's departure, six more players boarded the team bus and headed towards the airport. The police revealed that Sachin, Munaf Patel, the Pathan brothers, Zaheer, Rohit Sharma, bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad, fielding coach Robin Singh and coach Gary Kirsten, along with other support staff, were given the go ahead to board a flight for Mumbai.

Most England players throughout the day were closeted in their rooms. "We don't know how long we have to stay here in Bhubaneswar," said Hugh Morris, managing director of the England team.