Lahore: It wasn’t part of a mind game series conceived by Inzamam-ul Haq or Bob Woolmer, but Team India’s departure from New Delhi, aboard a PIA flight, got delayed by exactly four hours.
In fact, thanks to fog which hit the airline’s operations throughout Thursday, Rahul Dravid and Co. landed here well past 10.30 pm (IST) and it took another hour to reach the Pearl Continental Hotel.
Predictably, security was choking everywhere: From sharpshooters at the airport to commandos at the hotel. As on the last tour, the security cover entailed assigning identical buses ' one a ‘dummy’ ' for the team.
Among the passengers on the flight was Pakistan’s No.1 sporting icon, Imran Khan, who is now a Member of the National Assembly.
Imran, who made a brief visit to the Indian capital in connection with a TV shoot, told The Telegraph: “I expect a very competitive series, but the edge is with Pakistan ' almost wholly because of the harsh weather conditions...”
Incidentally, it was as low as seven degrees when one landed in Lahore.
Imran may have quit 14 years ago, but his popularity hasn’t lessened. Indeed, he was by far the most sought after in the lounge back at the New Delhi airport while he waited for boarding to be announced.
Most of the Indian players, who came to the lounge after Imran, made it a point to wish him ' Sachin Tendulkar being one of them. Imran responded by warmly congratulating the maestro: ‘I’m sorry I couldn’t wish you earlier, but congrats for breaking all records!”
For a moment, Sachin looked embarrassed.
Asked just how well he expected former captain Sourav Ganguly to handle the enormous pressure, Imran replied: “I don’t know him too well to give a clear answer... The situation that Sourav is in could either lead to a terrific comeback or end his career... It’s difficult to say whether he suffered a loss of form or terminal decline set in...”
Sourav and three others (vice-captain Virender Sehwag, Anil Kumble and Parthiv Patel) are to join the team on Saturday.
A big admirer of Greg Chappell, Imran (in the midst of having to pose for photographs, give autographs and accept greetings from the Dravids) didn’t forget to invite the Team India coach for “dinner.”
The date and venue is to be decided.
Indian security officers for Karachi Test: Pg 10