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An evening like none other
- Sourav & Co. honoured by team sponsor at presentation gala

Sahara Lake City (Maharashtra): Time, they say, is the best healer but ten days isn’t time enough for Sourav Ganguly to get over the pain of tripping at the very last hurdle in World Cup 2003. Yet, Team India sponsors Sahara India Pariwar have definitely done their bit to lessen that with an unusual balm.

First, Bollywood’s prettiest face, Aishwariya Rai, welcomed him with that million-watt smile and a delicately applied tilak. Then, filmdom’s icon, Amitabh Bachchan, presented a memento and, finally, Jaya Bachchan handed over a certificate listing the ownership of a seven-star deluxe apartment to be constructed at the Amby Valley World Cup Enclave here.

Clearly, Tuesday evening was meant to be like none other and Sahara supremo Subrata Roy ensured it was just that. As promised, ownership certificates were presented to all XV members of the World Cup squad plus physio Andrew Leipus and physical trainer Adrian le Roux. Coach John Wright, in Christchurch on a family-related trip, will receive his at a later date.

The apartments (estimated to eventually be worth well over Rs one crore each), it was announced, will be ready for possession on January 26. “It’s quite remarkable that the boys have been rewarded even though they didn’t win... They certainly deserved some recognition and it can’t get better than this,” remarked Kapil Dev, who remains India’s only World Cup-winning captain.

Incidentally, Kapil has been associated with the Amby Valley’s (floodlit) golf course project — one of the many salient features of this premium lifestyle venture, which is exactly 150 km from Mumbai’s domestic airport.

Much against his wishes, Bachchan (without the goatee, mind you) was pretty much the cynosure and the Sachin Tendulkars were a poor second.

Asked by The Telegraph whether he found the time to follow India’s World Cup campaign, Bachchan answered laughing: “Well, yes... But, because I’m the superstitious sort, I would watch the repeat telecasts. Of course, I couldn’t resist viewing the final live and, as it turned out, we lost...”

Grinning this time, Bachchan confessed to having been a “huge” fan of Sunil Gavaskar around the time he himself began his filmi innings. Now, he largely roots for Sachin. “Who would I rate better' Woh to bahut mushkil sawaal hai... I can’t answer...”

And, when somebody asked whether Indo-Pak cricket ties (on each other’s soil) ought to resume, Bachchan replied: “Personally, I’m not in favour of mixing sport with politics.” In other words, he is all for regular bouts between Sachin and Shoaib Akhtar.

The Bachchans apart, the evening attracted the Raj Babbars and Neha Dhupias and the Amar Singhs. Add Sourav and the Rahul Dravids and the mind-blowing Amby Valley was lit up like never before.

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