About 150-odd cricketers from North East and other Ranji Plate teams, camping at the National Cricket Academy, got a pleasant surprise when India's football captain Sunil Chhetri dropped in after being invited by the BCCI.
North Eastern states got their first-class status as recently as three seasons back and football is still the most popular sport in the region and the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and Chhetri are any day bigger icons compared to current star cricketers in states like Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.
The aim of NCA was to ensure that even cricketers from the region could connect with someone who enjoys an iconic status in the region and can narrate his own success story in club and international arena.
Chhetri, one of the top scorers among active players in international football alongside Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, did have his share of fun, taking part in fielding drills.
Chhetri, who is a close friend of former India captain Virat Kohli, did impress one and all with his smooth pick-up and throw during a fielding session as the campers watched in awe.
"He had a delightful fielding competition and shared some learnings from his own incredible journey in football with boys from north east and plate teams," BCCI tweeted.
Later Chhetri joined NCA head VVS Laxman for a one-on-one session with the cricketers, who are having a skills training session at the NCA.
"It was a fantastic session as cricketers got to know from an icon in Indian sport as to what kind of hard work and sacrifice is required to reach the top," a BCCI official privy to development told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
"This initiative by BCCI will give young and budding talents equal opportunity to hone their skills and represent India across formats. NE has enormous potential in sports and the board will keep no stone unturned to ensure that we are able to tap the best talent for the country," BCCI secretary Jay Shah had tweeted few days back.