The weight of expectations removed from their shoulders, the victorious Indian team members let their guard down after almost two months and mingled with industrialists, politicians and fans on Sunday till the security protocol compelled them to return to their hotel.
The occasion was the
felicitation ceremony of the world champions by President Pratibha Patil at the Raj Bhavan. The serene backdrop of the Arabian Sea provided the calming effect Dhoni's men would have been longing for after a nerve wrecking campaign that saw India bring back the prestigious World Cup after a long gap of 28 years.
Though tired after overnight celebrations, the players sported a huge smile and were more than willing to entertain shutterbugs and fans alike.
They first posed with the trophy, and then chatted with the fans that included the likes of Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Singhania of Raymonds Group and Kumar Mangalam Birla, who walked up to Harbhajan Singh to introduce himself.
A bald Dhoni, who refused to divulge the reason for his new look, preferred to take the back seat during the official photo shoot.
However, he too couldn’t refuse numerous photo and autograph requests between pulling his wife's leg and chatting up with the dignitaries.
Sachin Tendulkar, too, couldn't hide his excitement as he spoke about what the World Cup meant for him.
“I think I cried for the first time on the cricket field. But they were tears of happiness. I wanted to win this for 22 years and the best part was I chased my dreams,” he said.
“It was a very emotional moment. I had never dreamt in my wildest dreams that I would be able to see such wonderful moments in my life. It's not only the team that's happy, but the entire nation is rejoicing. That's what we wanted to achieve the most,” said Tendulkar.
Man of the Tournament Yuvraj Singh was understandably on Cloud Nine. “Soya kab tha (when did I sleep),” was the prompt reply when asked what was his first though after waking up on Sunday.
“It’s the ultimate thing. Now I know what the 1983 team must have gone through to reach the pinnacle,” added Yuvraj, who refused to remove his shades even after the sun had set, perhaps to shield his sleep-deprived eyes.
The team members have just about 48 hours to soak in the emotions and get ready for the fourth season of the Indian Premier League.
But on Sunday, all they wanted to do was to forget everything - the next assignment, future challenges and more importantly the need for rest - and just live the moment.