Sun, 14 Jul 2024

India’s World Cup winners meet PM Modi before victory parade

(New Delhi) - India's T20 World Cup winners returned home to a heroes' welcome Thursday, greeted by euphoric fans in New Delhi before skipper Rohit Sharma led them to a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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 meeting the premier.

Modi posed for a photograph with the team before sitting down for a chat with the players.

The team then left for Mumbai for an open-topped bus victory parade in the heart of India's financial capital later in the day, which will end at Wankhede Stadium.

Earlier in the morning, 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.

"This is surreal, watching my team with the World Cup," emotional fan Rohit Khanna told AFP.

"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.

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 win ended an 11-year global cricket trophy drought for India following their 2013 Champions Trophy win.

Their last World Cup victory was at home in the 2011 50-over edition under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

One fan held up a poster of coach Rahul Dravid. "Thank you, Mr Dependable", it read.

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

Rohit, Kohli and allrounder 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.

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