The spirit of Nelson Mandela lingered overwhelmingly at a packed Kingsmead Stadium here on Sunday.
“Mr. President, we miss you,” read a placard held aloft by a grieving fan. Though Mandela is a former president, for South Africans, there was always only one supreme leader and that was their eternal favourite ‘Madiba’, as the legend was warmly called by the millions in the ‘Rainbow Nation.’
Just as the skies remained overcast ahead of the second ODI between India and South Africa, the television screens were agog with tributes to the great man. Allan Donald, Jacques Kallis and other leading members of the pantheon of great South African cricketers, spoke warmly of their interactions with Mandela.
“There was this meeting and we were all literally drooling that we were all there with this great man,” Donald recalled.
Stepping out of the commentator’s box, Ravi Shastri said: “What a man! As part of the Indian team I met him when we toured here in 1992. We were formally introduced to him and as he walked past (Mohammad) Azharuddin and me, he turned around and said, ‘Ravi, you have intimidating eyes but South Africa is a friendly country and you will keep coming here.’ How prophetic were those words! In my passport, the maximum visa stamp is from South Africa. I have been here more than I have been to Australia or any other country.”
A moment’s silence was observed in memory of the former president before the players got ready for the game.