Spirited fans give jubilant welcome to T20 champs on arrival

Spirited fans give jubilant welcome to T20 champs on arrival

The triumphant Indian cricket team returned home to a rousing reception on Thursday, as hundreds of fans braved the steady drizzle and heavy security outside the Indira Gandhi International Airport to welcome their heroes.

The team, fresh from their T20 World Cup victory in Bridgetown, arrived aboard a specially-arranged charter flight, marking the end of a journey that had been delayed by Hurricane Beryl in Barbados.

Despite the early hour and inclement weather, fans holding placards and waving the national flag lined up outside the airport, eager to catch a glimpse of their favorite players.

"The wait of 11 years has ended, indeed the celebration will be high. I came from Laxmi Nagar and reached airport early morning at 5am just to see a glimpse of our skipper 'India ka Raja' Rohit Sharma and the team," said a fan at airport.

The team, unable to return home immediately after their victory due to the hurricane, had been cocooned in their hotel until the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) arranged for a special charter flight.

The Air India flight, aptly named AIC24WC - Air India Champions 24 World Cup, left Barbados at 4:50 am local time on Wednesday and arrived in Delhi at 6 am (IST) on Thursday after a 16-hour non-stop journey.

Heavy security was in place at the airport to manage the crowd, but this did little to dampen the spirits of the fans who cheered enthusiastically, holding up posters of star batter Virat Kohli, skipper Rohit Sharma, and outgoing head coach Rahul Dravid.

Two buses were stationed outside the T3 Terminal VIP gate to ferry the players to their hotel, from where they would head to the Prime Minister’s residence for a reception.

The players trickled out in ones and twos after completing immigration formalities, tired but excited.

They acknowledged the waiting fans with waves and warm smiles. Suryakumar Yadav, who took the sensational match-winning catch of David Miller in the final, was the most enthusiastic in responding to the cheering.

Wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant saluted the crowd, while pacer Mohammed Siraj blew flying kisses.

Rohit and Kohli, both of whom retired from T20Is at the end of India’s campaign, were among the last to come out of the VIP exit.

Rohit, holding the coveted trophy, raised it for the fans to catch a glimpse before boarding the bus. Kohli gave a thumbs up to acknowledge the support before boarding a bus.

The victory, which ended an 11-year wait for an ICC trophy, has been hailed as a significant achievement for the team.

India’s previous ICC title was in 2013 when it won the Champions Trophy under Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The team’s earlier World Cup titles came in 1983 (ODI), 2007 (T20), and 2011 (ODI).

After meeting the Prime Minister, the players are scheduled to fly to Mumbai to participate in an open bus victory parade followed by a felicitation ceremony at the Wankhede Stadium.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah and Rohit had posted on social media on Wednesday, urging fans to turn up in large numbers to show their support for the team.

The celebrations in Mumbai are expected to be a special moment for the 37-year-old Rohit, a Mumbaikar and a huge fan favorite in the city.

The road show will echo the grand celebration held 17 years ago when Dhoni's team had beaten arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of the inaugural 2007 World T20 in South Africa.