Many fan parallels with 1971 as Delhi and Mumbai celebrate the T20 World Cup win with Team India

Whether 1971 or 2024, Indian cricket fans have always gathered in numbers to celebrate their heroes. (Image: TOI, BCCI, Writer’s archive)

The similarities were uncanny. As we witnessed the scenes in Mumbai last evening, snapshots that will forever be etched in fans’ memories, one was forced to go back to 1971, the first time such a parade was witnessed in the history of Indian cricket. And interestingly, it was for the team that had beaten West Indies in the West Indies and travelled back to India from the Caribbean – much like Rohit Sharma’s World Cup-winning brigade did from Barbados.

Back in 1971, it was initially decided to offer a simple welcome to the team members at the airport, for they were due to land in the wee hours of the morning. For the record, the present-day team landed in Delhi early on Thursday morning after a 15-hour-long flight back.

The thought behind the simple plan was that most of the players would be tired after a long flight and would prefer to catch up on some much-needed rest before they were felicitated by the BCCI and the BCA. At no point did the BCCI anticipate that 15,000 fans would assemble at Santacruz airport to catch a glimpse of Ajit Wadekar’s warriors, clearly a first in the history of Indian cricket. As reported in The Times of India, “They burst into a mighty roar as Ajit Wadekar and Sunil Gavaskar came out of the customs enclosure and mounted an improvised rostrum on the lounge. Skipper Wadekar was visibly choked with emotion as he waved to the ecstatic fans. Gavaskar too was moved as he held aloft a trophy presented by the Trinidad cricket council for his outstanding performances on the tour.”


While the number had swelled to several lakhs yesterday evening, the passion and intensity has remained undimmed. In fact, that’s the one thing that unites the two teams 53 years apart. Fans have showered unconditional love on the players, making the sport what it is in India.

While some had waited all night to celebrate the moment in 1971, several flew into Mumbai to be a part of it in 2024. In 1971, dignitaries like Shri Siddhartha Sankar Ray, the Union Human Resources Development minster, had flown in from Delhi to receive the victorious team. It should be mentioned here that in the absence of a separate ministerial portfolio dedicated to sport, it was under the jurisdiction of the HRD ministry at the time.

That would explain the presence of Ray, who was also an avid cricket lover. For the record, it was Ray – on Jagmohan Dalmiya’s request – who also argued Sourav Ganguly’s case in front of the ICC tribunal in 2004, after he had been penalised for his on-field behaviour. 

The scene at the Santacruz airport was such that The Times of India described it as “an oven at 4am” in the morning. Delhi Airport yesterday morning was no different.

The TOI report went on to say that “the police had a trying time keeping the fans behind the barricades. Everyone was sweating profusely…None, however, cared for the discomfort. They had not only come in force but also brought with them garlands and placards and drums and crackers. ‘Welcome home heroes’, ‘All Indians applaud your grand victory’, ‘Sobers sobered’ were some of the bold placards that stood out in the crowd.”

This description could easily be swapped for a copy that was written yesterday, which explains the unrivalled joy the victory has given to millions and millions of Indians. And now that all of it is done and we have the memories forever, it is time for the players to get some much-needed rest. We shift our attention to Paris and the Olympics, now just two-and-a-half weeks away.