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Knights and the golden cup are home

public display of affection: On the streets, for ‘kay...kay...aar’

The captain of IndiGo flight 6E-349 carrying 180 passengers had an additional in-flight announcement to make on Monday before take-off in Bangalore.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have the IPL champions, Kolkata Knight Riders, flying with us today…We would like to congratulate them on their success.” A spontaneous applause greeted the broadcast over the PA system.

The golden IPL trophy is travelling “home” and so are the victorious Knights.

A streak of excitement ran through the aircraft as the passengers realised that the same people who they had watched dispatch the ball miles into the air would be flying with them barely 16 hours later.

“I was in Goa watching KKR clinch a historic victory yesterday and here I was today just inches away from them,” said Aditi Majumdar, a doctor, whose digital camera now boasts of not just scenic photographs of the beaches of Goa but also those of the men in purple. Though Aditi did not manage a selfie with the players, she went back to her Dum Dum home with a prized autograph from captain Gautam Gambhir.

The flight took off from Goa at 2.30pm and landed in Bangalore at 4pm for a transit. While half the passengers got off, the sight of the KKR players getting into the aircraft greeted those booked for the onward journey to Calcutta. Gambhir led the march, trophy in hand.

The players and the staff were mostly seated in the mid-section.

“This was unexpected and a pleasant surprise. The entire flight felt like a paparazzi zone, cameras and phones going click-click non-stop,” said Rashi Ray, 25, an advertising entrepreneur. “I boarded in Goa and was in seat 11E. After the plane landed in Bangalore, many of the seats around me were empty. A while later, I realised Juhi Chawla was right ahead of me and Yusuf Pathan on the row behind me,” she added.

The autograph-and-photograph session lasted about 10 minutes before take-off but began again — minus the initial frenzy — when the seatbelt sign was turned off. Piyush Chawla was unanimously declared the most obliging. “He seemed the happiest of the lot,” said Priyanka Bhoopal as she came out of the Calcutta airport with husband Gaurav. The Mandeville Gardens couple were on the flight with one-year-old son Armaan after a holiday in Coorg.

Outside the airport, KKR fans were trickling in since 5.30pm, more than an hour before the flight’s arrival.

A group of nine friends indulging in their daily dose of cricket in a field near the parking lot of the old airport came running with their bats and stumps when news reached them that the heroes were just a few hundred metres away.

“We cut short our match. We have watched them from the stands but to watch them so close is a dream come true,” said Himadri Dey, 14, panting and sweating.

At 6.30pm, about 20 minutes before arrival, a battalion of police closed in. A luxury bus waiting in the wings about 100m away pulled up right outside 1B. Almost simultaneously, sports minister Madan Mitra arrived. So did a posse of women dressed in traditional laal paar saris, taking position next to the gate with a plate of sandalwood paste in hand.

At 7pm, as the Knights trooped out one by one, a collective cheer of “Kay…Kay…Aar” rang out. The team was packed off in the bus and sent off to the hotel in a jiffy.

Five minutes before the KKR members emerged from airport, Kings XI Punjab co-owner Karan Paul, who was on the same flight, made a quiet exit through the same gate along with model Indrani Dasgupta. No flashbulbs went off.

Unlike their post-match jubilation, it was a low-key entry for the Knights at ITC Sonar. The first lot entered the hotel at 7.50pm through the rear gate and was greeted by ITC Sonar’s lady associates dressed in traditional Bengali attire. Their arrival was followed by a brief cake-cutting ceremony with Korbo Lorbo Jeetbo playing in the background. It was ITC Sonar’s signature chocolate truffle cake (six pounds).

The Knights spent a quiet evening at ITC and had the dinner buffet at Eden Pavilion. Gambhir was seen eating with Dahiya. Aussie Chris Lynn, motivational guru Mike Horn and some others were seen chilling at West View, the ITC bar and grill room.

The next lot of cricketers, including MoM Manish Pandey, reached the city around 10.35pm — minus Ryan ten Doeschate, Sunil Narine and Morne Morkel. A party is expected at Dublin but fans will be out because of strict security protocol.

Additional reporting by Pramita Ghosh