Pietermaritzburg: India's World Cup squad relived history on Friday when they boarded a train that Mahatma Gandhi took 110 years ago and sparked the Independence movement against British rule.
The Indians, here to play Namibia on Sunday, went on a symbolic 15-minute ride from nearby Pentrich to Pietermaritzburg in the Gandhi memorial train after a morning practice session. The steam train was a replica of the one in which Gandhi, then a young lawyer, travelled in 1893 only to be taken off and his luggage thrown out on the Pietermaritzburg station because he was a non-white. The incident forced an angry Gandhi to return to India and launch a non-violent fight for independence which was achieved in 1947.
Indian captain Saurav Ganguly said his team was inspired by the experience. "Any Indian will be inspired by doing what Gandhi-ji had himself done so many years ago," Ganguly said. Pietermaritzburg mayor Hloni Zondi thanked the Indians for taking time off from the World Cup - before asking for a small favour. "Next time you play the Australians, please, please beat them," Zondi said expressing the sentiments of most South Africans. India was shot out for its lowest World Cup total of 125 by the Australians last weekend. South Africa, whish hates to lose to Australia in sports, is drawn in separate groups for the preliminary league, but could clash with the reigning champions later in the tournament.
India's star batsman Sachin Tendulkar was forced to miss the ceremony to keep an appointment with a local doctor for a minor bruise in his left hand. "The doctor was only available at that time so Sachin had to miss out," team official Amrit Mathur said. "The injury is not serious at all and he will be back at the nets on Saturday." The ceremonial ride, organised by the local council, ended with a visit to Gandhi's statue in downtown Pietermaritzburg and the unveiling of a plaque at the railway station. Copyright AFP 2001