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India’s World Cup winners return to PM Modi praise, victory parade

The team took a victory lap in front of thousands more fans at Wankhede Stadium
The team took a victory lap in front of thousands more fans at Wankhede Stadium - Copyright AFP Indranil Mukherjee
The team took a victory lap in front of thousands more fans at Wankhede Stadium - Copyright AFP Indranil Mukherjee
Faisal KAMAL

India’s T20 World Cup winners returned home to a heroes’ welcome Thursday, greeted by huge crowds of euphoric fans and praised by a grinning Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a private reception.

Frenzied crowds shouted “India, India” after the team landed at Delhi airport from the Caribbean, having been delayed for days by Hurricane Beryl.

The team waved to the crowds and danced to drums and live music at their hotel before heading off to meet Modi at his residence.

Rohit and his team wore Indian jerseys emblazoned with “Champions”, as broadcasters showed images of them posing with their trophy and the premier.

“An excellent meeting with our Champions!” Modi wrote on social media platform X afterwards.

Evening saw the team paraded in an open-topped bus through the financial capital Mumbai, the birthplace of India’s cricket obsession, along a seafront route thronging with jubliant crowds.

They took a victory lap in front of thousands more fans at Wankhede Stadium, the site of India’s last World Cup win for the 50-over edition of the tournament in 2011. 

“This is surreal, watching my team with the World Cup,” emotional fan Rohit Khanna told AFP before the team landed.

“I saw the 2011 triumph, but this is a moment I will never forget.”

– ‘Dream’ –

Despite monsoon rain, crowds gathered outside New Delhi’s airport long before dawn, waiting for a glimpse of their idols, who had beaten South Africa on Saturday in a thrilling final in Barbados.

Whistles and wild cheers greeted the players as they walked out from the arrivals area with gold medals around their necks, some giving a thumbs-up to their fans.

It was vice-captain Hardik Pandya who emerged first, wearing a Caribbean hat, and the crowd erupted when captain Rohit came out carrying the glittering trophy, which he hoisted into the air.

Star batsman Virat Kohli, whose hometown is Delhi, was given some of the loudest cheers as he waved to hundreds of fans.

“It’s a dream for me to witness India return home from a World Cup,” said a shirtless fan with a Kohli tattoo on his chest. 

Last weekend’s victory ended an 11-year global cricket trophy drought for India following their 2013 Champions Trophy win.

The final was the last match in charge for coach Rahul Dravid, 51, who was bounced in the air by the team during the post-match celebrations.

Rohit, Kohli and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja all announced their retirement from T20 international cricket after the final.

Plane tracking website Flightradar24 said the special Air India charter had been the “most tracked flight for much of the last 15 hours”, as excited fans followed the team’s journey back from the Caribbean.

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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