A blue woolly cap on, hands in his pockets, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the man who started it all, sauntered out of the Belfast Hilton on Wednesday morning, flanked by Piyush Chawla and RP Singh.
India's misfortunes in Belfast began with Dhoni — the Indian one-day vice-captain apparently brought a sore throat with him from India; and the Irish summer, incredibly cold for the Indians coming from temperatures up to 40 degrees celsius and more, aggravated it.
Dhoni caught the flu cleanly and passed it to the man in the slips, as it were, and soon, the whole team had it. Dhoni has been down for five days — after bombarding the Stormont ground with massive hits from the nets last Thursday, the keeper has kept to his room.
On Wednesday, though, he was up and about —even venturing out of the hotel for a brief walk, summoned out by the cheerful rays of the sun that brightened Belfast for a while this morning. Almost on cue, though, someone seemed to pull a screen over the sun — raindrops came down beating, forcing the brave trio to beat a retreat.
Chatting with HT, Dhoni said that he was well now and hopeful of playing the second one-dayer against South Africa on Friday. "I don't have fever today, thank God!" he said. "The throat is also okay now… Hopefully, I'll be fine in time for the second match."
Three arrivals and a departure marked yet another cold, crisp Wednesday. Ishant Sharma and Ranadeb Bose arrived from India and were ushered into the warmth of the team hotel after an encounter with the media; Nitin Patel, the interim physiotherapist, also joined the Indian team.
And the man whose position he will take for now, John Gloster, departed to get his injured elbow operated upon in London.
Physio off to London to be fixed
Gloster has fractured a joint in his right elbow and will require surgery but, surprisingly to a layman, he did not wear a sling to support his arm. "I've been told to encourage mobility in the elbow," Gloster told HT. "Sometimes, keeping a fracture completely immobile is not necessarily a good thing!"
"I can't make a fracture any worse," added Gloster, who will be back after his surgery, which will be done by Dr Andrew Wallace — the man under whose knife Sachin Tendulkar and, more recently, Manoj Tiwary, also came.
The physio added that he would require a steel plate to be screwed in to keep his elbow joint in place. "It's swollen and it's painful, but sometimes you've just got to grin and bear it," Gloster said, pushing his bag away with his good hand.
More on those flu-hit Blues — S Sreesanth staggered into the lobby, obviously unwell. "You know what, I fell out of the bed in the morning!" he said. "It's been so bad, being cooped up in the room… I had been perspiring (in the match against Ireland) last Saturday," Sreesanth said... "My shirt was wet, and I guess I should have changed it… But I did not, and caught a chill and have been down after that."
Food has been a problem —but fortunately, says Sreesanth, Mane kaka, the masseur, has been at hand with his Indian-style rice.
"I'm not really worried, but it gets to you, you know… being stuck in the room," said the Kerala paceman.
The men in, Bose and Sharma, came in around 11am - and were immediately in the middle of a medium media scrum. Bose said that after the heat of India, they were hoping to get acclimatised to the cold conditions here. "It's 40 degrees in Kolkata, you know," he said. "I've played in England before, you know, and if I get a chance, I'd try to do my best."
Sharma, tall, gangling and shy, echoed the sentiment, though in slightly subdued tones. "I had been bowling in the Hot Weather tournament in Delhi," he said. "It's so cold here, but we do have similar weather in Delhi —in the winters," he said, and the irony was probably inadvertent.
The two were put up in another hotel —the Hilton had no room to accommodate the 16th and 17th members of this squad. Sourav Ganguly —probably one of the few men still standing — walked out casually, in jeans and a light jacket. Going out alone?
"Yes, I am… all the others are down," he said. "I'm going out for a tour of the city, in an open bus!" Isn't that hazardous, for the wind hasn't really dropped, has it? "Well, I think I'll come down to the covered area if I feel cold!" said the former India captain.
Yuvraj, Zaheer and Agarkar too were sighted — they walked out, dressed to the noses, prepared for the Arctic wind. The last named had also been down and out on Tuesday, and he told HT that he was fine now: "No, no fever any more. But still two days to go for the match, and I'm hoping to be okay for the game," he said. All of India is hoping that.
But just to be on the safe side, Rakesh Patel, summoned from league cricket in Liverpool, has been asked to stay on with the team until Friday. "We wanted to keep our options open in the fast bowling department," Rahul Dravid told HT.