Fans gather outside Ranchi airport to catch a glimpse of the players on Wednesday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
Ranchi, Jan. 16: If you go by Ranchi crowds, there is one team and one hero in the ODI on January 19. Forgive an adoring hometown for thinking Mahi is the man of the moment and Alastair Cook and his boys incidental to the show.
Almost all of Ranchi came out of homes, shops and offices to welcome ghar-ka-laadla Dhoni and Dream Team as the charter plane carrying the Indian and English cricketing contingent, both players and officials, landed on Birsa Munda Airport at 5.08pm on Wednesday.
Thousands of fans, including numerous women, jostled outside the airport to get a glimpse of Dhoni as the Indian and English teams boarded the buses outside the terminal.
What most didn’t know was that Dhoni was literally kidnapped by wife Sakshi and family members in a black Land Rover (JH01AV-1976), which was waiting with the fleet of four buses.
As the crowd chanted “Dhoni-Dhoni-India-India”, the man was speeding to his Harmu home.
There was a stray shout of “Arre, Dhoni nikal gaya” but not many paid attention. Bikers racing the black luxury car were stopped by security personnel.
The rest of the players boarded the two white Volvo buses. Umpires, BCCI officials and support staff got into the two red buses.
Armed with Tricolours, fans, who had booked every nook, cranny, terrace and treetop to watch the VIP fleet wend its way from the aerodrome to Radisson Blu on Main Road, didn’t know that Ranchi’s prince was already MIA.
It was good they did not, as excitement had reached fever pitch on the sidelines of the security-heavy roads emptied of vehicles to let the fleet pass.
When the players alighted from the buses to enter the hotel around 5.40pm, Main Road was a boiling cauldron of emotions. Shops were shut, people were cheering and waving.
As Yuvraj Singh came out of the bus first, the crowd chanted “Yuvi, idhar dekh. Yuvi iss baar fir chhey chakka maarna. (Yuvi, look here. Yuvi, hit six sixes again).”
Viraat Kohli, next in line, also received a standing ovation.
The crowd was as candid as it was spontaneous. Displeased with Ishant Sharma’s iffy form, it shouted: “Ishant, last game theek nahi khela (Ishant, you didn’t play the last game well).”
Police had to resort to a mild lathicharge around the hotel but no major casualty was reported.
Team England entered the hotel unobtrusively.
As word spread that Dhoni would host dinner for his cricket mates at his Harmu mansion Shaurya, thousands decided to set up base nearby, deciding to camp all night, if needed.