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You rarely find the Indian team in any state of anxiety these days, such has been their on-field form, but there was palpable tension when they boarded the bus at their hotel en route to the airport for the flight to New Zealand early on Thursday. It had nothing to do with the much-debated playing conditions nor with the seaming tracks; instead, it was a missing team-mate that broke through even Mahendra Singh Dhoni's zen-like calm. Everything seemed routine till team manager Niranjan Shah started the head count. There was then a hold-up and, as the players gazed towards the team hotel's entrance, the motley crew of fans and journalists sensed something - or someone - was missing.
The minutes dragged on and the smiles disappeared; finally, Gary Kirsten got out and asked the hotel staff to check on the missing man, now identified as Dinesh Karthik. Not in his room, Kirsten was told, to which he replied, "Then we will leave without him." He headed back to his seat and, seconds later, Karthik emerged and ran towards the bus with a sheepish grin. He boarded to the sound of slow-handclaps and choicest abuses. His team-mates obviously weren't going to waste such an opportunity and let him go scot free: as soon as he got on the bus the entire team, including Kirsten, greeted him with claps and later a few players had a select few words for his late arrival. Karthik's return to the Indian squad has started on a 'late' foot but at least he went one better than Bryce McGain - earlier this week the Australian legspinner missed an internal flight and travelled separately to South Africa late.
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