"Khel hi nahin, dil bhi jitiye. Shubkamanaye (win not only the game, but hearts also. Best wishes)," Vajpayee wrote on a bat he presented to captain Sourav Ganguly, who along with his team-mates and manager Ratnakar Shetty, called on the Prime Minister at his official residence in New Delhi.
School children lined up at the Prime Minister's residence with placards to wish the Indian team good luck as it embarked on the 40-day tour comprising five One-day Internationals and three Tests.
The placards had messages like 'Best of Luck' and 'Atal ne diya cricket ka uphaar, India-Pakistan sadbhavana ka prachar' (Atal's cricket gift spreads harmony in India and Pakistan).
Others read, 'Sabse Aage Honge Hindustani' and 'Shanti, Gyan, Bhaichara, Yehi Uddeshya Hai Hamara'. The Indian players, who came in a tourist bus named 'Gaurav', had a 40-minute meeting with the Prime Minister.
Sports Minister Vikram Verma and Minister of State for Sports Vijay Goel were also present on the occasion.
Thanking the Prime Minister, Shetty assured that the team would play in a spirit of sportsmanship and endeavour to further strengthen the friendly relations between the people of the two countries, a process that has gained momentum after the Prime Minister's visit to Pakistan during the SAARC Summit in January.
"Indian cricket team zindabad", excited school children lining up at the heavy security Seven, Race Course Road residence, said in unison as the players walked past them and a large number of SPG personnel to the 'Panchvati' hall at the residence.
On his part, Ganguly, accompanied by Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virendra Sehwag and other colleagues, all dressed in their blue team blazers, presented a bat to the Prime Minister autographed by all the players.
Emerging from the meeting, Verma said the Prime Minister's message for the Indian team was "Vijayibhava" - to not only win the game but also win the hearts of Pakistani people by playing good cricket and exhibiting good behaviour, all in a spirit of friendship.
Asked whether Vajpayee or Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani would travel to Pakistan to witness any match, he said there was no such proposal as of now. "There is really a feel good factor in sports," Verma said while also congratulating the Indian hockey team for qualifying for the Olympics at Athens in August.
Goel said the Indian players had called on the Prime Minister to get his "ashirvaad" (blessings). "Our cricket team is in full form and in top spirit. We will definitely win both the One-dayers and the Test matches," he said. The minister said all the players were very happy meeting the Prime Minister.
He said millions of people in the country were waiting for the cricket series between the two countries taking place after a gap of nearly 15 years. The series will help strengthen relations between India and Pakistan. Sporting and cultural links are steps in this direction," he said.
Goel said he has been invited by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Jagmohan Dalmiya and time permitting, would try and make it to the One-day matches at Lahore. Asked whether Government would send any representative for the series, Verma pointed out that it was BCCI and not the Government, which was sending the team as part of its engagements.
If there is any invitation from the BCCI or its Pakistani counterpart to individuals, a decision will be taken at the appropriate time, he said adding "there is no proposal as of now of Government sending any representative".
Ganguly, alongwith his teammates got into the air-conditioned luxury coach, stationed inside the iron gates at the residence, after waving to the large posse of waiting electronic and print media.