Explosion of love, as Team India heroes enjoy the time of their lives

Mumbai fans made the bus ride memorable for the players and support staff. (PC: X.com)

For a change, madness was lovely. Indian fans can be a little too twee. But then, cricket is a religion in this country.

The flight carrying the T20 World Cup-winning Indian team landed at the Mumbai airport to a water cannon salute. At Nariman Point, the starting point of the open-top bus parade, a sea of humanity greeted the players. The heavens opened, and from a normal perspective, standing behind the barricades soaked in the rain and without virtually any breathing space was borderline eejit. But the fans didn’t mind. They were experiencing history.

By the time the bus parade started, it was already mid-evening. The Queen’s Necklace glowed like a string of pearls. The heroes basked in glory. The entire stretch between NCPA and Wankhede Stadium looked resplendent.

For Rohit Sharma, it had to be an occasion dipped in nostalgia. In 2007, after India won the inaugural World T20, a similar open-top bus parade was arranged. Rohit, a 20-year-old then, was on that bus. Seventeen years down the line, he has called time on his T20I career as a World Cup-winning captain. The Borivali Fast has reached its destination.

Virat Kohli was capturing the moments on his phone. He will preserve them for posterity. As Rahul Dravid told him, he has ticked three whites. One red to go, and winning the World Test Championship next year will make him India’s most decorated cricketer.

On the bus, the cup went from one hand to another. When it was Kohli’s turn, he called Rohit and together the royalty of Indian cricket lifted it. It offered a throwback to June 25, 1983, when Sunil Gavaskar raised aloft Kapil Dev’s hand at the Lord’s balcony after India won the World Cup.

Meanwhile, fans at Wankhede were shouting: “Mumbai Cha Raja, Rohit Sharma”. The BCCI had asked the spectators to turn up well in advance. By 5.30 pm, the stadium was fully occupied and the gates had to be closed. Those who were lucky enough to get in enjoyed the rain dance.

Spare a thought for Hardik Pandya. Two months ago, he was at the receiving end of unending jeers at this venue. On Thursday, Wankhede did a U-turn and chanted his name. The all-rounder has turned boos into cheers by dint of his performance at the T20 World Cup. Cricket, indeed, is a great leveller.

Dhol provided the evening soundtrack and the players had a dance party. Then, as Rohit went and stood on the podium, he was given a standing ovation. “Since the time we have come to India, it’s been wonderful,” said the India captain. “The reception that we got here tells you the kind of enthusiasm that people have. So this trophy, yes it means so much to us, but it is for the entire nation. This trophy belongs to them.”

Kohli eulogised Jasprit Bumrah. “A huge shout-out to Jasprit Bumrah. We are lucky that he plays for us,” said Kohli, as the crowd serenaded the fast bowler with ‘Boom, Boom’ chants.

The cup came home at 6.10 am on Thursday. Hurricane Beryl had delayed the Indian team’s departure from Barbados and a special charter flight had to be arranged for the return trip.

In Delhi, the team met Prime Minister Narendra Modi over breakfast. “An excellent meeting with our Champions! Hosted the World Cup winning team at 7, LKM and had a memorable conversation on their experiences through the tournament,” the Prime Minister posted on his X handle, along with pictures.

The team got richer by Rs 125 crore, thanks to the prize money the BCCI has announced. Today, however, the Men in Blue experienced an explosion of love; something that is priceless.