And finally, out of Africa
The team left the ground, cheered by fans and received a warm reception at the hotel. The players gathered for a quick debrief session where John Wright made an emotional speech, saying it was a privilege to work with a talented bunch of cricketers.
Sourav made a stirring speech — thanked bowlers (who were hammered in the final) for bringing the team this far and said Anil Kumble (who did not play too much) was wonderful. The team raised three cheers for Srinath who said he would shortly make a formal announcement about retiring. Srinath expressed regret for letting the team down in the final, and thanked Sourav (for having faith in him).
The players felt better after the meeting; they realised an opportunity was lost but were proud of what they had achieved. Crore nahin mile to koi baat nahin, kam se kam joote to nahin padenge, observed one disappointed individual.
Match over, the major concern of the team was to return to India, the task made difficult as the official carrier, SA Airlines, were booked for the next two days. But the players, drained and sapped, were unwilling to wait that long. It was, surprisingly, left to Sehwag to coordinate the return-home campaign. Displaying skills that would have done a travel agent proud, he got everyone to pack in one hour and made bookings on the Air India flight. The team travelled economy class and Sourav and Sachin had no issue with that. Sachin, however, said there was one problem: Other passengers in economy will chew us.
In the usual chaos at the airport, pre-departure formalities were completed after which players struggled to obtain VAT refunds. Sourav approached the lady at the counter but was turned down as he failed to produce his Versace clothes for inspection. Annoyed by the snub, Sourav cribbed: ‘I have no influence, no luck. I don’t count’.