Mumbai comes to a halt to welcome victorious Team India
Mumbaikers gave a warm welcome the Indian cricket team returning from South Africa with Twenty20 World Championships trophy.Updated: Sep 26, 2007, 15:29 IST
India's main stock market rose to a record level on Wednesday morning, but for once residents of the country's financial capital were on a different high - the whole city poured out in the rain to welcome the Indian cricket team returning home from South Africa with the Twenty20 World Championships trophy.
TV news channels followed the open-top double-decker bus carrying the cricketers as it slowly wound its way through the streets of the megalopolis jammed with delirious revellers, while viewers called in to pour their hearts out in appreciation of the young team's performance.
"I don't mind being late for office. India doesn't win a world title every day," screamed one die-hard fan when asked if he would have to explain being late to work. His boss would probably be late also, as traffic snarls became the order of the day.
Showing no sign of fatigue after the long flight home from Johannesburg via Dubai, the players danced a jig in the rain on the top deck, draped themselves in the national flag, waved and showed off the glittering trophy to hundreds of thousands of supporters along the 30-km route from the Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport to the Wankhede Stadium.
More than 50 motorcycle outriders led the slow-moving cavalcade that took well over four hours to reach the stadium for the public felicitation programme organised by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
The scenes were reminiscent of the 1971 ticker tape welcome accorded to Ajit Wadekar's team after they beat England for India's first Test series win in Old Blighty.
Wadekar, recalling those halcyon days, told one of the TV channels: "It's such a great feeling that people are excited about cricket once again. This was a young team and it stood up to the toughest tests when they defeated teams like South Africa, Australia and Pakistan in the tournament."
By the time the team bus reached Wankhede Stadium, there was not even standing room anywhere in the stands. Several members of the 1983 World Cup winning squad were on hand to praise their triumphant successors.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to pose with the glittering Twenty20 trophy again and again, while the team was loaded with cheques, shawls, garlands, bouquets, plaques and almost any other memento one could think of. There were no complaints of excess baggage.
Mohinder Amarnath said: "It is great to see the people's love for the game. One good performance is all it takes to bring back the fans who were so disappointed in March when India went out of the World Cup in the West Indies."
Former opener and Captain Krishnamachari Srikkanth joined the chorus, hailing the victory as a path-breaking achievement.
"India and Pakistan were the least experienced sides in this new form of the game. But their grit and determination more than made up for their lack of exposure," felt the Tamil Nadu dasher, who agreed with the suggestion that he would himself have welcomed a chance to try his hand at Twenty20 a few decades ago.
The celebrations began soon after 8 a.m. when Emirates Airlines announced the arrival of its flight from Dubai and waiting fans went into a frenzy with wildly beating drums and loud cheers - desperate to catch a glimpse of the young heroes.
Indian cricket board president Sharad Pawar, vice-presidents Lalit Modi and Rajeev Shukla and chief selector Dilip Vengsarkar were the first to emerge at the arrival lounge, warning the waiting crowd about the imminent appearance of the cricketing heroes.
Security personnel had a tough time keeping the surging crowd in check as people pressed forward towards the customs area to catch a glimpse of the players.
Soon, the wait was over as Team India walked out of the airport lounge led by manager Sunil Dev followed by skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, sporting a huge red tilak on his forehead.
Excitement seemed to get the better of the players as Yuvraj Singh and S. Sreesanth broke into an impromptu 'bhangra' along with the turbanator Harbhajan Singh. But within seconds the players were coaxed towards the bus.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh was among those present at the airport to receive the cricketers.