India in Pakistan, 2003-04

High in the sky

The celebrations never really stopped

Roving Reporter by Anand Vasu on Flight IC 012

April 18, 2004

Text size: A | A

While celebrations went on in the sky, down below was one big party as well © AFP

The celebrations never really stopped. At 2.05pm on Friday, Team India clinched victory against Pakistan and the champagne was popped open in the dressing-room. From there on they moved to The Marriott, Islamabad, where they got together for a quick party before peeling off in different groups. Some went to private parties, some to the hotel disco and some preferred to savour the moment in the peace and quiet of their own rooms. Then, when they boarded special flight IC 012, they were together again for one last hour.

While journalists, and a few others in the business of cricket, were shepherded into the flight early, and were plied with scotch or beer, the team made its entry into the executive class amidst raucous cheers from the in-flight staff and passengers. In their light yellow smart casual T-shirts, the team fit snugly into the executive class.

And before the flight could take off there was time to uncork one more bottle of champagne, followed by another round of applause. It's amazing how success envelopes everyone around into its fold. Journalists, who merely reported the series, fed off the natural high the team was in. The sight of Indian newspapers on the aircraft had people burying their noses in the newsprint, doing a lot of catching up.

As soon as the flight was airborne some of the players came to the back of the aircraft to meet and greet the writers. Ramesh Powar, Irfan Pathan, Parthiv Patel and even Sourav Ganguly waded around amid the journalists, signing autographs, posing for pictures and cracking jokes.

How different it all would have been if India had ended the tour in defeat, imagined one journalist, and was almost cracked on the head with the empty champagne bottle for even bringing up defeat. From March 10, when the team left with high hopes and an uneasy anticipation, to April 17, when they returned, it had been such a long journey.

For the young medium-pacers, Pathan and Lakshmipathy Balaji, the tour had been a coming of age. If Australia showed that Pathan had the ability, Pakistan proved that he knew how to harness this talent. But Balaji, one of the successes on and off the field in Pakistan, will really remember these 38 days forever. Murali Kartik, Mohammad Kaif and Powar did not play a single Test all tour, but John Wright and Ganguly had gone out of their way to make sure that everyone in the squad felt a part of Team India.

And as the plane crossed over into Indian airspace there was another wave of cheers. We were back home, even if only notionally, and somehow that felt different. The minutes to touchdown breezed away and before we knew it, the wheels had kissed the tarmac at the Indira Gandhi International Airport. The arrival area was packed with employees and fans dressed in sponsors' kit. But, as has become standard practice, the players were whisked away through an unknown exit out of the airport. In other circumstances the gathered fans might have protested in disappointment. But after twin wins against the old enemy, this team will be forgiven anything. For the moment, anyway.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Related Links
Series/Tournaments: India tour of Pakistan
Teams: India | Pakistan

    'My kind of bowling style is gone now'

Gavin Larsen talks about wobbly seam-up, the 1992 World Cup, and his role in the next tournament

    Busy keepers, and Waqar's bowleds

Ask Steven: Also, high scores and low averages in ODIs, most ducks in international cricket, and the 12-year-old Test player

    When Lillee bowled offspin

Dickie Bird on what happened when he declined a request for a change of ball once

'The man who had a winning impact'

Modern Masters: Rahul Dravid and Sanjay Manjrekar discuss VVS Laxman's match-winning skills

The underutilised, and the ergonomically unpleasing

Beige Brigade: Odd bowling actions, the Onehunga Cricket Association, commentary doyens, and Mystery Morrison's Test wickets

News | Features Last 7 days

Youngest double-centurions, and the oldest living Test players

Also, the closest ODI team match-ups, most catches in a T20, and expensive Test debut five-fors

From Constantine to Chanderpaul

As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history

Soaring in the 1980s, slumping in the 2000s

In their pomp, West Indies had a 53-13 win-loss record; in their last 99, it is 16-53. That, in a nutshell, shows how steep the decline has been

The contenders to replace Ajmal

Following the bowling ban on Saeed Ajmal, ESPNcricinfo picks five bowlers Pakistan may replace him with for the time being

I got more than I expected - Shastri

ESPNcricinfo spoke to Ravi Shastri, India's new team director, after the conclusion of the tour of England, where MS Dhoni's team lost the Tests, won the ODIs and then lost the only Twenty20 international

News | Features Last 7 days