It was just past midnight at the international terminal of the Mumbai airport when Mahendra Singh Dhoni's arrival caused a commotion. Naturally, he was escorted by security personnel to the baggage screening section. It gave one just a preliminary idea of the kind of excitement IPL II is going to cause.
About 12 hours later at the Johannesburg airport, the India skipper was standing calmly at the baggage collection conveyer belt hassled by very few.
There were other passengers and airport staff who recognised him, but his presence caused no pandemonium and he happily obliged the handful of autograph and photograph seekers. For a moment it seemed that the response to IPL II was still lukewarm in South Africa.
After close to four hours at the baggage reclaim section of the Cape Town airport did the Indian non-cricketers in the mix of different colours and shapes get the first impression of what is in store. Passengers could barely jostle for space to stand near the carousal, forget identifying or laying a hand on their bags, when airport authorities cordoned off an area near the moving belt with a stern “this place is only for cricketers”.
There could hardly be a better India-like announcement for the arrival of IPL II in Rainbow Country. The football World Cup will take place here next year and the Confederations Cup sometime before that. The odd hoarding on the latter was visible, but nothing on the mega event and on the way to the city from the airport, there were, however, billboards of the T20 extravaganza.
Immigration officials and taxi drivers confirmed there has been a distinct increase in Indian footfalls and hotel employees said bookings have been heavier this year. “You won't get any place to stay near Newlands (venue for the weekend doubleheader that have been sold out),” said the staff of a hotel slightly far from what will be the place to be in come Saturday.
The business-minded are naturally looking forward to making some quick bucks, while other citizens are eagerly awaiting the most famous tournament in the latest form of the game.
In just over 48 hours from now, hopes will be high near the Cape of Good Hope.
Pujara ruled out
Kolkata Knight Riders batsman Cheteshwar Pujara has been ruled out of the IPL with a knee injury sustained during a practice match.
IPL-2: Two days to go