Dhoni's warriors get rapturous welcome in Delhi
The Indian cricket team, which created history by winning the country's first-ever tri-series title on Australian soil, returned home to rousing welcome with thousands of euphoric fans on Thursday rolling out the red carpet for their heroes.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his young bravehearts were accorded a heartwarming reception at a felicitation function where the top brass of the BCCI doled out hefty incentives for their historic triumph Down Under.
The bitter memories of an acrimonious tour marked by a racism row and constant on-field bickering between the two teams seemed all but forgotten as the Indians revelled in their moment of glory.
Ferozeshah Kotla was thrown open to the capital's cricket fans, who came out in full force to catch a glimpse of their stars. Over 25,000 turned up for the just over an hour long function.
"I thank all the fans for their support. I think this is the kind of motivation we need. It was a tough tour but the way my players conducted themselves both on and off the field was amazing. I hope we continue to conduct ourselves similarly in the coming tournaments," Dhoni said in his brief speech at the felicitation function.
"I would also thank my team members without whom it (winning the title) would not have been possible. I hope we will continue to entertain you like this," he added.
Earlier, the team, which reached Mumbai in the morning, flew into the national capital by a chartered flight at around 2.05 pm, marking the end of a three-month-long explosive tour.
A few hundred fans waited outside the airport to have a glimpse of Dhoni and his young warriors who defied all odds to conquer world champions Australia with a 2-0 margin in the best-of-three tri-series finals.
Top officials of the Cricket Board and the Delhi and District Cricket Association were present at the airport to receive the team.
It was an emotional home-coming for the players as the waiting fans, many of them holding placards and the Tricolour, cheered them lustily as they came out of a Indira Gandhi International Airport terminal in a flower-bedecked bus.
The frenzied media and the fans, however, could not interact and a have close glimpse of their heroes as the bus drove straightaway for the hotel without even stopping at the gate.
Even the information of which terminal they are arriving kept on changing apparently due to security reasons and newspersons had to hurry from domestic arrival terminal to the cargo terminal of the IGI Airport at the last moment.
The players, dressed in white T-shirts, acknowledged the cheers of the crowd as they jostled their way out of the airport with the help of securitymen who tried to cordon off the fans.
Hordes of cameramen, who had taken up vantage positions much before the team's arrival, tried to capture the moment. It took some time for all the players and the support staff to board the bus and leave for a city hotel.
Team manager Lalchand Rajput was the first to get down from the bus at the hotel, followed by Sachin Tendulkar and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
They were garlanded and showered with flower petals once they entered the hotel lobby. The team is being felicitated at a civic reception at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground.
The players were felicitated by, among others, BCCI chief Sharad Pawar and Delhi Lieutenant-Governor Tejinder Khanna. The BCCI had initially planned to take the team on an open-top bus from the airport to the Ferozeshah Kotla like they had done for the Twenty20 World Cup winning team in Mumbai last year, but cancelled the idea later.
"The players have been in Australia for more than two-and-a-half months and will also be tired after the two flights. That's why we have not made any elaborate arrangements as the players will be eager to go home," BCCI Vice-President Rajiv Shukla said.