The Cochin International Airport witnessed a flurry of activity on Wednesday morning when cricketer S. Sreesanth landed here after being let out on bail by a Delhi court.
Sreesanth was returning home after almost a month-long detention in Tihar jail on spot-fixing charges.
At the airport, outdoor broadcasting vans of channels were seen parked right outside the domestic arrival exit where security guards usually don’t allow cabs more than a few minutes’ halt to drop or pick up passengers. The space outside the terminal building was taken over by the media, and was dotted with cameras mounted on tripods.
As a crowd started ballooning, the police made way for a white sedan driven by Sreesanth’s cousin Appu who had come to take the cricketer home. Anticipating media frenzy, police closed the usual exit.
Inside the terminal, the airport staff and shop employees were bunched up against the railing separating the visitor’s area from the arrival section to catch a glimpse of the cricketer.
Five minutes after the clock struck nine, the electronic display board flashed the arrival of the Air India flight AI 467, carrying the cricketer. Signalling the imminent arrival of Sreesanth, his cousin Appu emerged out of the terminal with the cricketer’s baggage.
Television reporters who were all along giving a running commentary, which often went all the way back to the morning of May 16 when Sreesanth was arrested, suddenly raised the pitch of reporting.
The first of the passengers who emerged out of the terminal were dumbstruck to witness the chaos that greeted them. They could not find their friends and relatives who had come to receive them as they were literally pushed to the background. Excitement reached a feverish pitch, as the reporters caught sight of Sreesanth sporting a beard and clad in white t-shirt and blue denim jeans. He emerged out of the terminal building with his brother Dipu Santhan, friend Jayan Thekkedath and reporters who escorted him from Delhi.
Sreesanth addressed the media briefly and started to make a move. But the media didn’t have enough of him and tailed him despite a protective ring thrown around the cricketer by the police and CISF personnel. At one point, Sreesanth lost his footing in the melee and almost fell. In between a fan was heard shouting “Sreesanth, we love you,” as if to compensate for a few boos that greeted the cricketer on his arrival.
In their anxiety to get Sreesanth safely into the car at the earliest, the security personnel took him in the opposite direction where the car was parked. The car had to be brought to his side before he could eventually leave the airport. He shifted into another car in which brother-in-law Madhu Balakrishnan and father Santhakumaran Nair were waiting for him near Kalamassery, away from the media glare.
Jayan Thekkedath said the cricketer had hardly slept the previous night in the excitement of returning home.
Sreesanth reached Madhu Balakrishnan’s home “Madhavam” at Tripunithura amid supportive sloganeering by a few fans, who also garlanded him.