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Team India arrives to royal welcome

EVEN WITH the Maharaj missing, the cricket team is the closest thing to royalty the nation can stake claim to. And so, here we are, loyal courtiers, gathered to pay obeisance to Team India upon its arrival in the City.

india Updated: Apr 14, 2006 14:57 IST
SAEED Khan

EVEN WITH the Maharaj missing, the cricket team is the closest thing to royalty the nation can stake claim to. And so, here we are, loyal courtiers, gathered to pay obeisance to Team India upon its arrival in the City.

Around one hundred of us - scribes, lensmen, privileged fans, mentally challenged kids from Swawlamban school and, of course, cops - are gathered at Fortune Landmark Hotel to catch a glimpse of Dravid and Co.

It’s a slow pitch. After a two-hour wait starting at 11 am the only progress we’ve made is from the spiked iron gates to the plush lobby. More comfortable than the scores still thronging the entrance but no closer to the cricketing bluebloods.

As all available seats are taken most of us hacks mill around staring at huge posters detailing watershed events in cricketing history hung. The lobby, in fact, abounds with cricket motifs, giant pads, gloves and even a faux Kookaburra cherry dangling from a chandelier.

A huge bat bearing a lone signature, that of Rahul Dravid, awaits the arrival of Indian and English teams with an impatience matching ours. In one corner the kids from Swawlamban, girls in colourful ghagra-cholis and boys in Rajasthani attire complete with headgear, play moodily with a turmeric-laden tray.

The other end is taken up by half-a-dozen PYTs, obviously the offspring of well-to-do and well-connected parents, who keep up a running chatter on their high-end mobiles providing a minute-by-minute update of events to eager friends.

To the rear, necks craned to the max, line up hotel staff including stewards, captains and even a couple of commi chefs in starched white hats.

Just as the wait is beginning to seem interminable a grey Mercedes pulls up to the porch and an expectant hush descends over the lobby. In walks captain Rahul Dravid, wearing jeans, white shirt and his usual air of slight bewilderment. Before any of us can react, though, he is gone.

Bounding out of the reception area toward the off-limit elevator with a speed that would work wonders for India if replicated between the wickets.

At around 2:20 pm there is a renewed flurry of activity, as two luxury Volvo buses come to a halt outside the lobby. At the first sight of the team members a multitude materialises seemingly out of nowhere to crowd the cricketers blocking one’s line of vision totally. Except for Flintoff who, towering over the rest, is clearly visible.

The celebrity hunters are finally shooed away after vociferous complaints by shutterbugs who snappily click away as the hostesses give the cricketers a taste of ‘traditional Malwa hospitality’ anointing their foreheads with tilak and placing turbans on their heads.

As the cricketers head for the elevator it is the turn of the PYTs to go into overdrive greeting each passerby with a screeching ‘Hiieee’. Although only the gentlemanly Irfan Pathan bothers to respond with his trademark toothy grin.

Modern day royalty of India – the cricket stars – were given a traditional Malwi welcome, complete with ‘tilak’ and garlands, on their arrival in the City today.