India get warm welcome despite final defeat
The Indian team returned home on Tuesday to a grand welcome despite their 125-run defeat by Australia in the World Cup final.Updated: Mar 25, 2003 18:05 IST
The Indian cricket team returned home on Tuesday to a grand welcome despite their 125-run defeat by Australia in the World Cup final in Johannesburg.
Thousands of cricket-crazy fans, who normally slam the team after any loss and often vent their anger with street demonstrations, flocked instead to Bombay airport early in the morning waving national flags and chanting, "Long live India."
The loudest cheers were reserved for local hero Sachin Tendulkar, who was voted Man of the Tournament after scoring 673 runs in 11 matches.
"Our team gave a tremendous performance and has done the country proud," Jagmohan Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), told reporters.
"They played to their full potential and entered the final in a majestic way. Yes, we haven't won but on that day probably Australia were the better team on the field."
India won nine of their 11 matches in the tournament, including a celebrated victory over arch-rivals Pakistan.
"We're definitely disappointed," captain Saurav Ganguly said. "But we're happy we have played well overall in the tournament."
Last month, fans across India were buring effigies of the leading players following the team's early nine-wicket loss in the group stage to Australia.
Ganguly was given a mock funeral in Calcutta and black paint was hurled at middle-order batsman Mohammad Kaif's house in the northern city of Allahabad.
But India came back strongly to silence all critics.
"The team has given us a lot of good memories from this World Cup. They may not have won, but they played like champions," said Bombay cricket fan Anurag Saxena.
India next play a tri-nation tournament involving South Africa and hosts Bangladesh in April.
First Published: Mar 25, 2003 13:21 IST